US utility Duke Energy says that its agreement with China Huaneng Group to exchange information and explore potential co-operation initiatives could help to drive down the cost of renewable and clean energy technologies.

The two companies have signed a memorandum of understanding to explore a variety of renewable and clean energy technologies and to hold high-level discussions covering emerging technologies. A key focal point will be clean coal technologies, says Duke.

Duke and China Huaneng – China’s largest electric utility – will also exchange information on clean energy technologies and say that their agreement could help to “commercialise and drive down the cost of these technologies for the benefit of the entire world”.

“We find ourselves at a pivotal point in world history,” said Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers. “To deal with global warming requires rapid action from all of us, and clearly China Huaneng Group and Duke Energy are playing a leadership role on this issue.”

Under the MOU, top executives from both Duke Energy and China Huaneng Group will launch a series of meetings to exchange information and explore potential long-term cooperative initiatives to reduce coal plant emissions and develop other renewable sources of electricity generation.

The discussions are likely to look in detail at the two companies’ advanced clean coal projects, including Duke’s 630 MW coal gasification plant in Edwardsport, Indiana, and its 825 MW pulverized coal plant in Cliffside, North Carolina.

China Huaneng built China’s first CO2 capture demonstration facility at the Huaneng Beijing cogeneration plant, and is currently constructing a larger-scale CO2 capture facility at a coal-fired plant in Shanghai.

Huaneng is also building its GreenGen project – a 250 MW IGCC demonstration power plant in Tianjin. It will be China’s cleanest and most environmentally friendly coal-fired power plant when it is put into operation in 2011.