China steps up efforts to tackle curtailment of renewable energy

Source: By Kathy Chen and Dominique Patton, Reuters • Posted: Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A security guard stands in front of windmills used to generate energy in Shanghai November 28, 2011. REUTERS/Aly Song

China is urging its top wind and solar power production provinces to prioritize transmission of renewable energy over conventional energy sources as it seeks to get more clean power onto the grid.

China has installed more wind farms than any other country but not all of the power generated by the projects is used, due to curtailment, which is a shortage of transmission capacity to connect projects in remote regions to end users.

More than 15 percent of energy generated by wind power in the first half of this year suffered from curtailment, according to official data.

Grid companies typically favor conventional energy sources like coal and hydro power over less stable renewable energy sources, which also require more investment on grid connections and government-subsidized feed-in tariffs.

The country’s top economic planner has urged northwestern regions Gansu and Inner Mongolia to launch pilot projects to tackle the issue, including increasing consumption of renewable energy locally.

“Renewable energy should be given priority, complemented by conventional energy in a local network with peak shaving, in order to reduce the need for constructing grid capacity to export electricity,” said a document released by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).

Though the regions should build more transmission lines to increase outbound capacity, the authority also urged them to attract more energy-intensive industries from China’s east, helping to better absorb the supply of renewable energy locally.

“We welcome local renewable energy generators to participate in and scale up direct power trading, providing alternative sources of power for electricity and heating, cutting prices for industrial users, and increasing power use and consumption as close as possible to the source of production,” added the NDRC.

The renewable power producers will also benefit from priority access to the grid, it said, reiterating policy already in place for several years.

China had nearly 109GW of wind power capacity by September, a 28 percent increase year on year, according to the National Energy Administration, but 20 percent of western Inner Mongolia’s wind power suffered curtailment, while the level hit 31 percent in Gansu.

Average curtailment of solar power in the country is 9 percent but the level reached 28 percent in Gansu, according to the National Energy Administration.

China had 35.78GW of installed solar power capacity in June, which is expected to grow to 150-200GW by 2020.