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Tara: Achieving My Environmental Dream in Hebei

May 21, 2024



Tara, a Finnish national, born in 1989, holds dual master's degrees in Neurobiology and Social Psychology from the University of Helsinki, Finland. Currently residing in Shijiazhuang, she is the founder of Hebei Oucai Environmental Technology Co., Ltd.

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In November 2021, Tara, originally from Finland, established her company in Shijiazhuang, initiating her own business venture. Her company is dedicated to introducing advanced energy-saving and carbon-reducing technologies from Europe to China through technology transfer.
After coming to Hebei, she delved deep into the field of Sino-European talent and technology cooperation, experiencing the changes in Hebei. What changes did she feel in Hebei? What are her thoughts and expectations on the development prospects of environmental technology in Hebei?
A "Small Goal" to Help Hebei Reduce Carbon Emissions
Reporter: We saw your adorable twin sons in the media interview. The mixed-race babies are so cute. Did you initially decide to come to Hebei, to Shijiazhuang, because of romance?
Tara: Exactly. I'm Finnish, born and raised in Finland, grew up in the United States, and later returned to Finland for university. In 2010, I met a boy from Shijiazhuang in Finland, while I was still an undergraduate at the University of Helsinki. As we fell in love, we planned to get married. Considering that his parents couldn't speak English, in 2014, I specifically applied to Peking University as an exchange student from the University of Helsinki, where I studied Chinese for six months. Meanwhile, he returned to Shijiazhuang and started a business. After graduating with a master's degree from the University of Helsinki in 2016, I officially settled in Shijiazhuang and started working here.
Reporter: Now you not only have a family in Shijiazhuang, but also established a company in November 2021. What is the main business of your company?
Tara: Our main business is to provide agency services for foreign companies, mainly European energy-saving and carbon-reducing technologies, to assist them in finding clients, distribution partners, joint venture partners, or technology transfers in China.
To better promote these technologies, we organize various activities. For example, we collaborate with various associations and partners to conduct training sessions, inviting foreign experts in energy-saving and carbon reduction to conduct online training and technology promotion. At the same time, we also host offline and online promotion events. For example, in September, we held a technical promotion conference on energy efficiency of European coal-fired power plants in Shijiazhuang, helping these technologies find potential partners; in Tangshan, we also have a technical promotion conference on improving energy efficiency in steel production; by the end of the month, I will also help promote the 2022 European Energy Innovation Virtual Exhibition organized by the China-Europe Energy Cooperation Platform, promoting European energy technologies in China and Hebei Province.
Additionally, we also engage in consulting services, which cover a wide range of areas. This includes conducting market and policy research for foreign clients in China and assisting Chinese clients in understanding environmental standards for exporting products to Europe. We have a client in Baixiang, Xingtai, whose company produces biodegradable disposable plastics and wants to export their products to Europe. However, due to the differences in standards between China and foreign countries, they need our consultation on relevant European standards. Furthermore, we are committed to providing energy and environmental protection technology solutions for Chinese clients.
Reporter: Why did you choose to start a business in the environmental and carbon reduction field? How did you consider it initially?
Tara: I have always been an environmentalist. I got my driver's license at the age of 15, but since living in Shijiazhuang, I haven't renewed it. With a concentrated population in Shijiazhuang, urban transportation is very convenient. I mostly use green transportation such as subways, electric bikes, or walking within the city, and rarely take taxis.
I studied biology in my undergraduate years, a discipline closely related to environmental protection as it involves the study of all living organisms. This environmental mindset and educational background enabled me to make many international friends and accumulate resources, which is the fundamental reason why I chose to start a business in this field.
After coming to Shijiazhuang, I mainly engaged in Sino-European trade, often cooperating with European platforms, which laid the foundation for my business. I have worked in many industries, but I increasingly focus on and realize the importance of technologies that contribute to environmental improvement.
Environmental protection and carbon reduction technologies from Nordic countries such as Finland, Sweden, and Denmark are leading internationally. More importantly, China has been promoting the realization of the "dual carbon" goals in recent years, and I believe there is great potential in the field of environmental protection.
Having decided on this direction, I started studying sustainable development and climate change-related courses online in 2020. Later in November 2021, my company was officially established. Now I can help bring advanced environmental protection technologies from European countries to China, which is beneficial for Hebei, China, and the world.
Reporter: How is your company's business progressing?
Tara: Some European companies I represent want to invest through technology and form joint ventures with Chinese companies, while others aim for technology transfer. We already have some potential partners. A Hebei company is considering purchasing a technology, but the amount of funds involved is substantial, so the process of facilitating cooperation is relatively lengthy.
I currently represent eight European technologies, including energy efficiency technologies for five European coal-fired power plants, each requiring a demonstration project. After preliminary communication, two power plants in Shijiazhuang are very interested in two demonstration projects: the CTProfiler cooling tower performance analyzer technology and the PET boiler heat transfer software and boiler combustion adjustment technology. These two projects are expected to start next year.
In China, in Hebei, as long as the technology can actually save energy, reduce consumption and bring tangible economic benefits, and the cooperation models or negotiations for market access are successful, everyone will accept it quickly.
Reporter: We see that many of your projects are still ongoing. We heard that you've set yourself a "small goal" to help Hebei reduce carbon emissions by 10% from the 2020 level. Why did you set such a goal? Do you think it's achievable?
Tara: I have great confidence in the future of this industry in Hebei. Although my goal may sound ambitious, if my demonstration projects succeed and the technology is widely implemented, one or two projects might easily achieve my goal.
Most importantly, in China, particularly in Hebei, favorable policies for "dual carbon" are continuously emerging. I've assigned my assistant to dedicate one day per week specifically to search and collect "dual carbon" information. We've observed that in July this year, Shijiazhuang issued an implementation plan for achieving carbon peak and carbon neutrality, emphasizing the advancement of carbon neutrality. It promotes the implementation of a batch of net-zero emissions and carbon-neutral demonstration projects such as large-scale energy storage, smart grids, distributed renewable energy, hydrogen energy, and carbon capture, utilization, and storage.
When I first started carbon reduction projects, I often communicated with relevant departments in Hebei Province and Shijiazhuang. Although everyone thought it was a good initiative, without relevant policies, many tasks were not progressing smoothly. Just one year later, Shijiazhuang has substantial policy support, which surprised me. Previously, due to the lack of specific policies in Hebei, European companies paid little attention to it. However, once policies are in place, they immediately express demand. In September, I plan to further communicate with relevant departments in Shijiazhuang, and this time, it will involve several advanced European carbon reduction technologies.
An Increasing Number of Foreign Enterprises and Platforms are Paying Attention to Hebei
Reporter: Since coming to Hebei, you've been working in the field of Sino-European talent and technology cooperation. Have you noticed any changes in international exchanges and cooperation in Hebei in recent years?
Tara: My biggest impression is that Hebei is attracting more talents and higher-level exchange platforms, and an increasing number of foreign enterprises and platforms are paying attention to Hebei.
Seven or eight years ago, many European companies in Beijing were not familiar with the Hebei market, and some didn't even know where Shijiazhuang was. But now, with the advancement of the coordinated development of Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei, and the economic development of Hebei, more and more European companies are becoming interested in Hebei. My company is also a member of the European Union Chamber of Commerce, and many companies in the chamber have been actively consulting me about the carbon reduction market of Shijiazhuang and even of Hebei.
Reporter: Your company's business involves the field of environmental protection and carbon reduction. Do you pay special attention to changes in the environment and environmental protection in Hebei?
Tara: In the past few years in Hebei, the environment has been continuously improving. These days, many people in my social circle are posting photos of "blue sky" scenes. Although I haven't posted on social media, I couldn't resist capturing photos of the blue sky and sunset and sending them to my friends.
In recent years, China has developed clean energy such as wind and solar power faster than anywhere else in the world, especially in Hebei. Last summer, when I visited Zhangjiakou, I was astonished to see wind turbines everywhere, on the streets, mountainsides, and along the road from Beijing to Zhangjiakou. In Shijiazhuang, many streetlights and park lights have solar panels. Through the window of my office, I can see more and more solar panels on the rooftop of the Fourth Hospital of Hebei Medical University. I believe there will be even more in the future. These changes further enhance my confidence in doing environmental business.
Reporter: Do you have any plans or intentions for the future?
Tara: After obtaining my master's degree, I could continue with my Ph.D., but I haven't decided on the field of study. So, my husband suggested that I come to Shijiazhuang for a year to help him with some of the company's work. Every year, our discussion ends with "one more year."
This September, my children will start kindergarten, which allows me to set a three-year development plan. After three years, when they start elementary school, I'll reassess how the company is doing. I believe there shouldn't be any issues, and I should be able to stay in Hebei for a longer period.

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