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India along with others moving towards centre stage of clean energy transition: Clean-energy leadership begins in China

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China, May 30, 2017: There is a new reality in clean energy. The world’s major emerging economies — including China, India, and several others — are moving to the centre stage of the clean energy transition. By betting heavily on energy efficiency, on wind, solar and other renewables, as well as other less carbon-intensive technologies, these countries are increasingly leading the way.

This is the significance of the top-level meeting of energy ministers from the world’s biggest economies in Beijing next month. The fact that representatives from fossil-fuel producers like Mexico and Saudi Arabia will join renewable-energy pioneers like Denmark and Germany for a top-level meeting in China is not a coincidence. We are witnessing a global consensus that the key to energy transition will reside with decisions made in emerging economies.

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There are many reasons to stand for clean energy today. These can range from reducing greenhouse gas emissions but also battling the scourge of air pollution, improving energy security by reducing the dependency on fossil fuels, diversifying supply, creating high-tech jobs or fostering innovation. As such, approaches to clean energy will vary from country to country.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), all of the projected growth in energy demand in the next 25 years will take place in emerging and developing countries. This means that implementing the right kind of policies and technologies will be critical to ensure stable supplies as well as meeting desirable environmental outcomes.

The good news is that this is happening. India was the first country to set comprehensive quality and performance standards for light emitting diodes (LEDs), and it expects to save as much as 277 terawatt-hours of electricity between 2015 and 2030, avoiding 254 million metric tons of CO2 emissions or the equivalent of 90 coal-fired power plants.

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Another upshot is that by committing to these new clean technologies, countries like China are helping drive down costs for the benefit of the world. China is now the undisputable global leader of renewable energy expansion worldwide, and the IEA forecasts that by 2021, more than one-third of global cumulative solar PV and onshore wind capacity will be located in China.

Recently announced renewable projects have broken new records, with power purchase agreements for several onshore wind and large solar PV farms now below $50/MWh.

As clean energy is increasingly driven by the emerging economies, global political leadership in advancing clean energy will be increasingly shared. This is precisely the function of the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM), which was created in 2010, and whose goal is to form a partnership that brings together major industrialised and emerging economies to focus on clean energy technologies and policies, reduce environmental impacts, and ensure reliable and affordable supplies.

Our timing is critical. Action by the 25 CEM members, representing 90 per cent of global energy investment and 75 per cent of global emissions, is crucial for making the world less carbon-intensive than today.

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In Beijing, our focus will be to provide a collaborative environment to tackle these challenges in areas ranging from transportation, buildings to the power sector. Our governments will seek to increase electric mobility, with a target to reach 30 per cent of the new vehicle fleet by 2030. The recent announcements of the Indian government will go a long way towards this end. Another challenge for CEM governments will be to increase EV charging providers by a factor of 10 in the next five years. Other priority areas include improving efficiency in buildings, which account for nearly a third of all energy consumption and 20 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.

In the power sector, the CEM is seeking to move away from the coal-or-renewables paradigm. Coal was the fuel of the last 100 years, and renewables will likely be the dominant fuel of the next century for many countries. At the same time, we must recognise that so-called dispatchable power plants — including thermal generation — are key for many countries to ensure energy security during the transition to a cleaner energy system. And so, the Beijing meeting will launch new work to address this challenge.

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To succeed, this energy transition will require the full backing of industry. This is why the CEM includes top-level executives from companies involved in all aspects of the energy field who offer a unique on-the-ground perspective and ultimately determine where investments end up going. They are often the first to recognise what drives clean energy uptake.

This is a unique time for the CEM, which is entering a new phase of cooperation and growth in our short history. The world of energy is changing. Facts on the ground unequivocally point to the key role of emerging economies in clean energy. Come the meeting in Beijing June 6-8, we are likely to see this reflected in the leadership of the CEM. (IANS)

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World’s First AI News Anchor Debuts From China

The analyst urges China to open up and include multinational software and services to contribute to its digital economic transformation.

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AI News ANchor
Xinhua news anchor Qiu Hao stands next to an AI virtual news anchor based on him, at a Sogou booth during an expo at the fifth World Internet Conference in Wuzhen town of Jiaxing, Zhejiang province, China. VOA

China’s state-run Xinhua News has debuted what it called the world’s first artificial intelligence (AI) anchor. But the novelty has generated more dislikes than likes online among Chinese netizens, with many calling the new virtual host “a news-reading device without a soul.”

Analysts say the latest creation has showcased China’s short-term progress in voice recognition, text mining and semantic analysis, but challenges remain ahead for its long-term ambition of becoming an AI superpower by 2030.

Nonhuman anchors

Collaborating with Chinese search engine Sogou, Xinhua introduced two AI anchors, one for English broadcasts and the other for Chinese, both of which are based on images of the agency’s real newscasters, Zhang Zhao and Qiu Hao respectively.

In its inaugural broadcast last week, the English-speaking anchor was more tech cheerleader than newshound, rattling off lines few anchors would be caught dead reading, such as: “the development of the media industry calls for continuous innovation and deep integration with the international advanced technologies.”

AI News Anchor
This photo illustration shows a man watching an artificial intelligence (AI) news anchor from a state-controlled news broadcaster, on his computer in Beijing, VOA

It also promised “to work tirelessly to keep you [audience] informed as texts will be typed into my system uninterrupted” 24/7 across multiple platforms simultaneously if necessary, according to the news agency.

No soul

Local audiences appear to be unimpressed, critiquing the news bots’ not so human touch and synthesized voices.

On Weibo, China’s Twitterlike microblogging platform, more than one user wrote that such anchors have “no soul,” in response to Xinhua’s announcement. And one user joked: “what if we have an AI [country] leader?” while another questioned what it stands for in terms of journalistic values by saying “What a nutcase. Fake news is on every day.”

Others pondered the implication AI news bots might have on employment and workers.

“It all comes down to production costs, which will determine if [we] lose jobs,” one Weibo user wrote. Some argued that only low-end labor-intensive jobs will be easily replaced by intelligent robots while others gloated about the possibility of employers utilizing an army of low-cost robots to make a fortune.

AI News ANchor
The creation showcases China’s progress in voice recognition. Flickr

A simple use case

Industry experts said the digital anchor system is based on images of real people and possibly animated parts of their mouths and faces, with machine-learning technology recreating humanlike speech patterns and facial movements. It then uses a synthesized voice for the delivery of the news broadcast.

The creation showcases China’s progress in voice recognition, text mining and semantic analysis, all of which is covered by natural language processing, according to Liu Chien-chih, secretary-general of Asia IoT Alliance (AIOTA).

But that’s just one of many aspects of AI technologies, he wrote in an email to VOA.

Given the pace of experimental AI adoption by Chinese businesses, more user scenarios or designs of user interface can be anticipated in China, Liu added.

Chris Dong, director of China research at the market intelligence firm IDC, agreed the digital anchor is as simple as what he calls a “use case” for AI-powered services to attract commercials and audiences.

AI News Anchor
Others pondered the implication AI news bots might have on employment and workers.

He said, in an email to VOA, that China has fast-tracked its big data advantage around consumers or internet of things (IoT) infrastructure to add commercial value.

Artificial Intelligence has also allowed China to accelerate its digital transformation across various industries or value chains, which are made smarter and more efficient, Dong added.

Far from a threat to the US

But both said China is far from a threat to challenge U.S. leadership on AI given its lack of an open market and respect for intellectual property rights (IPRs) as well as its lagging innovative competency on core AI technologies.

Earlier, Lee Kai-fu, a well-known venture capitalist who led Google before it pulled out of China, was quoted by news website Tech Crunch as saying that the United States may have created Artificial Intelligence, but China is taking the ball and running with it when it comes to one of the world’s most pivotal technology innovations.

Lee summed up four major drivers behind his observation that China is beating the United States in AI: abundant data, hungry entrepreneurs, growing AI expertise and massive government support and funding.

AI News Anchor
People watching the AI News Anchor

Beijing has set a goal to become an AI superpower by 2030, and to turn the sector into a $150 billion industry.

Yet, IDC’s Dong cast doubts on AI’s adoption rate and effectiveness in China’s traditional sectors. Some, such as the manufacturing sector, is worsening, he said.

He said China’s “state capitalism may have its short-term efficiency and gain, but over the longer-term, it is the open market that is fundamental to building an effective innovation ecosystem.”

The analyst urges China to open up and include multinational software and services to contribute to its digital economic transformation.

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“China’s ‘Made-in-China 2025’ should go back to the original flavor … no longer Made and Controlled by Chinese, but more [of] an Open Platform of Made-in-China that both local and foreign players have a level-playing field,” he said.

In addition to a significant gap in core technologies, China’s failure to uphold IPRs will go against its future development of AI software, “which is often sold many-fold in the U.S. than in China as the Chinese tend to think intangible assets are free,” AIOTA’s Liu said. (VOA)