Monthly Archives: March 2012


My top 5 list for wind power integration in China

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30 March 2012 I had the pleasure to give a presentation on integration of renewables at the 2nd Grid Integration China week 2012.

My top 5 priority action list for improving integration of renewables looks like this:

  1. Incentives for a flexible energy system: Flexible thermal power plants, Flexible use of district heating, Better use of interconnectors
  2. Good wind power forecasts integrated in the system dispatch
  3. Reliable wind turbines: Grid code, Testing and certification
  4. New transmission grids
  5. Smart grids

My main point is, that the current challenges in wind power integration in China are linked to the incentives or rather the missing incentives for integration. Neither the dispatch centre nor the power producers have sufficient incentives to do an effort for integration of the electricity from wind power plants. If such incentives were put in place it would be fairly easy to make the existing system more flexible, and no new technology development is needed to ensure integration of up to at least 20 percent wind power into the electricity system. So this is my priority no 1.

If (or when!) these incentives are in place then of course it is very important to have reliable wind power prognoses in order to be able to make the right system dispatch and prepare for the use of regulating units in the operation hour. So good wind power forecast for system dispatch is my priority no 2.

Thirdly the wind farm should be able to enhance the system security, not to lower it. Therefore appropriate grid codes and certification of the wind turbines are essential for the further deployment of wind power. Luckily China recently approved good national grid codes for wind turbines, and certification has high priority.

Fourthly development of the grid is necessary to ensure a larger share of wind power and power from renewables in general. But notice that this in not the first priority. Nevertheless, grid development is a long-term discipline, so grid planning and timely development of the grid is very important, also in the short run.

Finally development of “smart grid” concepts should be promoted. The smart grid do not need to be smart-smart, but especially with focus on the demand side flexibility and the use of electricity for transport and heating require a more advanced information flow about prices to work dynamically. In the long run, the system security would need more advanced control mechanisms to ensure the dynamic security of supply.

You can download my presentation here: RE_integration_March_2012 (2.4 MB).

The presentation gives a short wrap-up of the conclusion from the two recent reports on wind power: the China Wind Energy Development Roadmap 2050, developed by Energy Research Institute and IEA, and the report on Integrated Solution Strategies, developed by SGERI and VESTAS. And a short introduction to China National Renewable Energy Centre :-).


Shale gas in China – upsides and downsides

China wants to step up the utilisation of shale gas. According to an article in China Daily, the National Energy Administration aims for annual shale gas output of 6.5 billion cubic meter by 2015. The administration has said the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15) will lay the foundations of large-scale production during the subsequent plan, when it aims for production of 100 billion cubic meter a year.

Ministry of Land and Resources data show that China has shale gas resources of 134 trillion cubic meters, of which 25 trillion cubic meters are recoverable, meaning that the country has surpassed theUnited States as the owner of the world’s biggest reserves of the unconventional gas. A study carried out by the US EIA estimates the technically recoverable shale gas resources even higher, to 1275 trillion cubic feet, equivalent to around 36 trillion cubic meters.

The use of natural gas in China is favorable from several viewpoints. Compared to the use of coal natural gas is cleaner, and both the local and the global environment will benefit from a substitution of coal based power production with a gas based. Exploration of the huge amount of shale gas will also reduce the dependence of imported fossil fuel in China.

But the use of natural gas in shale rock formations also has its flip-side. The gas is tied to the shale rock formations and the exploration requires special techniques. Here is what EIA writes about the exploration of shale gas in the US: “Hydraulic fracturing (commonly called “hydrofracking,” or “fracking,” or “fracing”) of shale rock formations is opening up large reserves of gas that were previously too expensive to develop. Hydrofracking involves pumping liquids under high pressure into a well to fracture the rock and allow gas to escape from tiny pockets in the rock. However, there are some potential environmental concerns that are also associated with the production of shale gas:

  • The fracturing of wells requires large amounts of water. In some areas of the country, significant use of water for shale gas production may affect the availability of water for other uses, and can affect aquatic habitats.
  • If mismanaged, hydraulic fracturing fluid — which may contain potentially hazardous chemicals — can be released by spills, leaks, faulty well construction, or other exposure pathways. Any such releases can contaminate surrounding areas.
  • Hydrofracturing also produces large amounts of wastewater, which may contain dissolved chemicals and other contaminants that require treatment before disposal or reuse. Because of the quantities of water used and the complexities inherent in treating some of the wastewater components, treatment and disposal is an important and challenging issue.
  • According to the United States Geological Survey, hydraulic fracturing “causes small earthquakes, but they are almost always too small to be a safety concern. In addition to natural gas, fracking fluids and formation waters are returned to the surface. These wastewaters are frequently disposed of by injection into deep wells. The injection of wastewater into the subsurface can cause earthquakes that are large enough to be felt and may cause damage.””

Considering the present and future difficulties with sufficient water supply and environmental protection in China it is necessary carefully to consider how the shale gas can be exploited in a sustainable way. Luckily it seams that Ministry of Land and Resources is aware of this. As Mr. Pan Jiping from ministry mentions to China Daily: “Survey and evaluation activity related to China’s shale gas reserves, which is still at the preliminary stage, is a key issue before China goes to commercial production”.
Pan adds that further technological breakthroughs and industry support policies are needed to draw companies into the sector and propel its growth.



Easy access to info on RE Policy

It can be hard to find relevant and updated information about renewable energy policy and  policy measures. But luckily the International Energy Agency IEA has teamed up with IRENA (the International Renewable Energy Agency) to prepare and maintain a global database on this issues. The information regarding China has recently been updated, and the China National Renewable Energy Centre will do an effort to keep the information as topical as possible.

Find the database here or go to my link page.

China_Renewable Energy

The future RE development requires a new mind-set and sector reforms

China needs a sustainable energy system, and it is necessary to change the traditional mind-set for planning and dispatching the system and also look at the institutional set-up for the energy system in order to implement a sustainable system. The message is clear from Shi Lishan, deputy director in the New Energy and Renewable Energy Department of the National Energy Administration. In an article in China Renewable Energy, the new magazine from China National Renewable Energy Centre, Shi Lishan explains what is needed for the transition to a sustainable energy system. The ingredients are a combination of energy efficiency measures and further large-scale deployment of renewable energy, both in centralised and in distributed systems. But introduction of large amount of fluctuating electricity in the electricity system will reduce the production from fossil fuelled power plants – existing base-load units will become producers in peak-load hours and in hours with little production from the uncontrollable renewable energy sources like wind and solar. It requires new thinking and also new division of roles between the utilities in the electricity sector to get this to work. Also the deployment of distributed power units like solar rooftops and small wind turbines requires new regulation and new tariff systems in order to make in possible to use the grid as buffer between the local demand and the local production.

Shi Lishan concludes that there are no technical for increasing the share of renewable energy in the electricity system. Neither would a high share of renewables necessarily affect the safe operation of the electric system. However, an increasing amount of renewable energy generation will have higher costs, it will require more reserve capacity in electric system, and it would require more transmission capacity and a more solid grid structure. A higher share of renewable will also affect the other generating units, as the amount of full-load hours will be lower. The requirements to electric system management and operation will be stricter and the users will pay for higher tariff.

The article is from my point of view a very important step in the development of a comprehensive understanding of the real challenges in the further deployment of renewable energy in China. For a number of years focus has been on the technology development and technical challenges with integration of wind. Now it is clear, that the institutional challenges are important obstacles for renewable energy, and that these challenges should be addressed quickly and efficient in the pathway to sustainability.

Read the article and post your comments below!