Monthly Archives: January 2013

The biggest obstacle to wind power development in China

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Curtailed wind power gives record loss for wind power producers in 2012. Recent estimates reveals that 20 TWh or between 20 and 30 percent of the total Chinese wind power production was curtailed in 2012, according to Qin Haiyan, secretary general of the Chinese Wind Energy Association as cited in Windpower Monthly. The curtailed electricity has the value of CNY 10 billion, and the producers have not been compensated for the loss. The curtailed electricity could lower the local and global pollution and for the society as a whole it would be cheaper to curtail the coal fired power plants instead of the wind farms. To put it simple: Curtailed wind power = more pollution + more costs + less incentives for new wind power.Jilin_wind_farm

The large amount of curtailed wind power is in my opinion the biggest obstacle for the Chinese government’s ambitious plan for wind power deployment. It is difficult for wind power developers to justify investments in new wind farms if you know that up to 40% of the annual production will not be sold. And if you are forced to establish new wind farms due to quota system or similar, you will tend to invest in cheap wind turbines with low efficiency, since high efficiency will be punished by even more curtailment.

So it is absolutely necessary to improve the situation for the wind farms quickly in order to get the benefits from wind power and encourage more investments.

Then what should be done? Well in principle the solution is straight forward: The electricity system must be more flexible and regard wind power (and solar PV) as an integrated part of the system – not as an add-on to the thermal system. Today the thermal power plants have no or few  economic incentives for being flexible, since the income is almost solely depending on sale of electricity. Also the dispatch centres should have better possibilities and incentives for a more dynamic use of interconnectors to neighboring areas. When the economic incentives are in place the technical obstacles would soon disappear – all experiences from e.g. Europe show this.

In practice it might not be as simple. It is alway difficult to change the division of benefits and costs between different stakeholders and the thermal power plants would potential have difficulties in recovering investments if they have to cut down on the number of hour they can produce during the year. But if the Chinese government want to fulfill it’s ambitions on renewable energy, a solution must be found quickly. My guess is, that this issue is on top of the agenda for the NEA this year.

PS: The picture is from a large wind farm in the North West of Jilin, one of the provinces with most curtailment.

 

China 2012: Slowing down on RE deployment

Fresh figures from China’s State Electricity Regulatory Commission (SERC) shows stagnation in the 2012 deployment of renewable energy in China. According to SERC, 15 GW of hydro power,  13 GW of wind power and 1 GW of solar power were established in 2012. These figures are less than the similar figures for 2011 for all three technologies.

The stagnation in the annual new installed capacity of wind power and solar power underline the serious and deep crisis for the Chinese RE industry. Both the wind industry and the solar industry are suffering from lack of orders and huge mismatch between production capacity and market demand.annual_installed_RE_capacity

NEA’s recent announcement of ambitions for 2013 aims to break the trend and to reestablish old growth trends. As shown in the figure comparing the annual installed capacity in 2010, 2011 and 2012 with the NEA ambitions for 2013: More hydro, more wind, and 10 times more solar!

 

2013 to become a big year for RE in China

The National Energy Administration in China have high expectations for the development of renewable energy in China in 2013. The 12th 5 year plan for renewable energy, which was launched last year set the targets for 2015 for the various technologies at a fairly ambitious level; 260 GW hydro power, 100 GW grid connected wind power and 21 GW solar power should be installed by 2015. Compared to the 2011 level this gives average annual increases of 12 GW per year for hydro power, 13 GW per year for wind power and and 4.5 GW for solar power. But NEA now expect 21 GW hydro power, 18 GW wind power and 10 GW solar power to be installed in 2013 – all higher the the average yearly targets from the 12th 5 year plan.

nea-2013

So despite the current challenges for integration of renewables into the Chinese electricity grid, including lacking regulation and incentives for distributed solar power, NEA is quite optimistic or ambitious regarding the possibilities for deployment of RE in 2013.

Are the ambitions realistic? Well past experiences have shown that massive yearly deployment is possible, so it is difficult just to judge the 2013 targets as unrealistic. On the other hand the current challenges for integration and deployment cannot be easily delt with. Action is needed to avoid curtailment by making the electricity system much more flexible. And the deployment of solar power requires focus on large scale deployment of small scale solar power systems, roof-top and building integrated systems. And the barieres for such system might be underestimated when the 2013 targets were set. However, the signals from NEA is very encouraging: RE must have a bigger role in the Chinese energy supply in the future, and with these ambitions it is sure that a lot of effort will be made to quickly remore the barriers for deployment and integration of RE.

(Let me add that the figures might not be as easy to compare that shown. The figures for the 12th 5 year plan are grid-connected capacity, which for wind power make a big difference from the total installed capacity. It is not clear if the NEA 2013 figures also are grid-connected capacity or total installed capacity)

The minutes from the NEA working meeting where the targets were set, can be found on the NEA web site. The meeting ended up with eight focus areas for NEA in 2013, including increased domestic energy supply, more renewable energy, control of the total energy consumption, preparation of an energy sector reform, enhanced international energy cooperation, more research and demonstration, electricity to people without electricity supply, and strengthen of the management of the energy sector. It looks like a quite busy year for the energy administration, also in 2013 :-).

 

Strong analytic platform for RE policy research in China

China National Renewable Energy Centre (CNREC) develops a comprehensive toolbox for development of policy strategies for renewable energy in China. 

Since the launch of CNREC in February 2012 much effort has been put into the development of an analytic platform which would enable the centre to make high quality research on policy strategies and RE development in China. The development has been inspired by international best practice solutions and especially researchers and experts from Denmark, Germany and United States have given valuable input to the development of the platform.

The platform consists of data, software-tools, methodologies and reports, supporting each other:

  1. The basic information about renewable energy technologies are currently being collected in a technology data catalogue for the most important RE technologies. Not only the current status is described but also the future development trends to 2050.
  2. A suite of simulation tools are being developed for comprehensive analyses of the impact of RE deployment for the whole Chinese energy system in form of scenarios for the development to 2050.
  3. A number of technology roadmaps are developed. Roadmaps for wind energy and biogas are already available at the CNREC information portal, and in 2013 roadmaps for solar energy and biofuel will be prepared.
  4. Several scenario studies are currently part of the CNREC-work portfolio. Focus is on how to obtain a high share of renewable energy in the Chinese energy system in 2050 and how to set up a feasible development path in order to realize such a vision.
  5. All these activities gives a solid basis for policy action plans on support schemes, regulatory initiatives etc.

CNREC Platform

A bit more elaborated description of the CNREC platform can be found in this presentation: CNREC recent development, which was one of the topics at a meeting in the Danish ThinkChina initiative in December 2012.