My first trip to China was a side-trip from Hong Kong to Guangzhou and rural areas in 1983. The stark contrast between the tiny British Colony and the enormous People’s Republic was overwhelming. I went to Beijing as solar expert for the EC in 1985 for a workshop. This was eye-opening, but the most memorable thing today is the person I cannot remember. Very few of the Chinese could speak English, so it is hard to recall who was who. The official group photograph was put on my office wall along with many others and that was that. In 1999 IT Power won a contract from UNDESA to help establish the China Renewable Energy Industry Association (CREIA). The (forgotten) gentleman next to me in the photograph, Zhu Junsheng was appointed as CREIA President, but more significantly, today he is my father-in-law.
In 1988, I was asked by Pierre Lequeux of the EC Development Directorate, and who I had been in Mali with in 1978, to be the solar expert for the EC-China Renewable Energy Development Project in Zhejiang Province. I made a lot of trips to Hangzhou, and after great difficulty getting permission, I visited China’s biggest PV manufacturer in Ningbo. But I saw no production, all was top secret. It did not occur to me that China today would be the world’s largest PV producer. For this project I was scheduled to be in Hangzhou in June 1989, but I also had a World Bank PV Project in Morocco and needed to go there. I was excited to go to China later because of the good news of the peaceful student occupation of Tiananmen Square. I was travelling in remote parts of Morocco and saw no news, but on the flight home from Casablanca I saw a newspaper — the tanks had moved in. When I got back to my office there was a telex (an ancient form of
Figure 9. PV Shop in Lhasa, Tibet, 1990.
communication) from the EC to say no project travel to China should be undertaken. There was also a telex from the Zheijang Energy Research Institute (ZERI) to say they were expecting my visit and when would I arrive? I responded that I could not come by order of the EC because of the disturbances. I got a quick reply: "What disturbances? Everybody is hardly working". In the late 80s and 90s, I did a lot of travel all over China, for UNDTDC, UNDP, UNIDO and others. I enjoyed the travel, by steam train, I developed a taste for some but not all of the food, and many of the women. A particular PV success in China, and without government or foreign aid is small PV in Tibet, see Fig. 9, one of no less than 11 PV shops in Lhasa. My PV story in China would require a whole book.