Chinese Cleantech Market Report

May 2017

China has emerged as both the world’s largest producer and consumer of clean technologies, while the country’s investment in clean technology and renewable energy has exceeded the combined total invested by Europe and the US. With a commitment to overcome pollution problems and peak carbon emissions, China will continue to invest in the next five years (RMB 17 trillion ~estimated €2.3trillion) generating market opportunities across a wide range of clean-tech sectors.

This demand has been recently validated in the EU Gateway to China CleanTech Mission, which took place on March 20th to 24th in Beijing in 2017. Over 260 Chinese companies registered, and more than 800 one on one business meetings arranged during the mission week. The programme covers wider topics such as healthcare is funded by the European Commission with the goal to help European companies enter China.  The PwC Luxemburg and China firms jointly operate it.


It is a right timing for foreign companies with advanced solutions in cleantech to come to China. First of all, green growth comes across strongly as Chinese Government’s top priority. The 13th Five-Year-Plan set goals and plans for emissions reductions, ecological conservation including targets to reduce carbon and energy, and regulations to tackle air, water and soil problems. Secondly, the developed economies are growing relatively slow for example in waste management and air pollution as urban and industry development stabilized, whereas Chinese market demand is growing and has technology gap in many subsectors such as water, air monitor and control, new energy vehicle and waste management.

Soil treatment is another growth area in China with technology gap.  Since 2010, serious pollution accidents caused by heavy metal pollution, including arsenic, cadmium and lead, led to great loss of people’s health. Defining pollutants is the key to soil restoration. Currently, the monitoring system still lags behind, especially equipment for determination of new type pollutants such as phthalates and phytohormne. However, there were very few European companies specialized in this sector.  Europe has started cleaning up the land 30 years ago. Unlike China, the focus has moved to pollution prevention through law and regulations rather than remediation.


Barriers are specific industrial standards and regulations, huge financial needs for setup and market access challenges.

  • Overshooting. While some technology such as biomass, waste to energy are truly advanced but not as attractive as expected because they are too much ahead and not solving the real problems. Waste incineration technology a rather basic one is need because it can take out large amount of garbage quickly.
  • Inconsistent standards. Some technology is particularly sensitive to industry standards for example such as energy conservation system design.  Both domestic and foreign companies should conform to the industry-specific regulations and standards.  Regulation is becoming more stringent, as are to efforts ensure that companies actually conform to them. Local regulations can very often impact significantly on the timeline and costs of market entry, and companies are advised to examine the implications of such regulations prior to committing to the market.
  • Proven concept. For some of the environment prevention projects, pre-test and pre-investment is needed for foreign companies. Some regional rules might even prefer a local entity to conduct the project on behalf the foreign entity. For example, for an environmental monitoring project, a back-end center needs to be set up locally as data collected cannot be transferred and analyzed abroad according to Chinese law.
  • Market access. Local distribution networks, bidding process, negotiation habits of Chinese clients can make China a very difficult market to access. What’s more, most Chinese local government and companies don’t have an English profile on their website that make it harder for foreign companies to do due diligence or research on the market. 


To materialize a successful business cooperation in China, foreign companies are advised to examine the market and regulations prior to the commitment to the market. Finding business partners for distribution, licensing, trading, M&A etc., will facilitate the process of market entry.  Registering trade mark in China as early as possible will protect your intellectual property and make sure a fair value assessment for technology transfer.

For Chinese clean-tech companies, domestic market opportunities are enormous as well. Identifying and applying suitable advanced technologies and equipment is key.  Building joint business or partnership with foreign companies can help develop solutions and offerings quickly and scale up the business. This process will help you understand conditions of overseas markets and foster strategies when “going abroad.  

Contact us

James Chang

China Financial Services Consulting Leader, PwC China

Tel: +[86] (10) 6533 2755

Qian Wu

Senior Manager, PwC Hong Kong

Tel: +[86] (10) 6533 7987

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