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China’s New Energy development is entering the critical stage

Press ReleaseChina’s New Energy development is entering the critical stage

At the 2024 Analysis Forecast Conference on China’s Economic Situation and Power Industry Development, the China Electricity Council predicted that the capacity of newly installed power generation in China will exceed 300 million kilowatts in 2024. By the end of 2024, China’s installed capacity of new energy power will reach about 1.3 billion kilowatts, surpassing coal power for the first time, accounting for the share of the total capacity to rise to about 40%.

China’s installed capacity of new energy reaches record high

Over the past year, China’s green and low-carbon transformation has accelerated overall. By the end of 2023, China’s power generation capacity was 2.92 billion kilowatts, an increase of 13.9 % year on year. The installed capacity of non-fossil energy power reached 1.57 billion kilowatts, accounting for 50% of the total installed capacity for the first time, reaching 53.9%, an increase of 4.4 percentage points year-on-year.

China’s wind power, photovoltaic and other new energy resources have always maintained a leading position in the world. The construction of large-scale wind power and photovoltaic bases focusing on deserts, Gobi and desert areas has been accelerated. The first batch has been completed and integrated onto the grid over 45 million kilowatts. The second and third batches have been approved with over 50 million kilowatts, and construction is under way. In 2023, the newly installed capacity of wind power and photovoltaic power generation accounted for 78.8% of the toal newly added installed capacity, becoming the absolute majority. The total installed capacity of wind power and photovoltaic power in China increased from 760 million kilowatts at the end of 2022 to 1.05 billion kilowatts at the end of 2023, accounting for 36% of the total installed capacity.

Adopt comprehensive policies to promote the consumption of new energy

According to the current speed of new energy installation, within this year, it is expected to surpass coal power installed capacity for the first time in China. New energy leap-up development, while assisting the energy green low-carbon transition, also brings challenges to the stability and security of the power system and the consumption of new energy.

It is a systematic project to promote a high proportion of new energy grid connection and consumption. Expert suggested that supporting regulatory coal power should be rationally distributed, peak load gas power should be appropriately distributed, the construction of leading hydropower stations in the basin should be vigorously promoted, the capacity of existing hydropower stations should be expanded, and the construction and renovation of pumped storage power stations should be promoted. The construction of new energy storage and the integration of generation, grid, load and storage should be actively promoted in order to continuously enhance the comprehensive adjustment capabilities of the power system.

“As the installed capacity of new energy continues to rise, how to effectively consume green electricity is indeed a challenge.” Expert said that this requires us to start from many aspects and take comprehensive measures to solve it, including strengthening the construction of power grid infrastructure, promoting distributed generation and local consumption, developing energy storage technology, strengthening the construction of regional power markets and improving the level of demand side management.

Construction of key power grid projects was accelerated

In March this year, the Northern Shaanxi to Anhui ±800 kV UHVDC transmission project started. The project will add a major artery to China’s ” West to East Power Transmission “, which can transmit more than 36 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity from Shaanxi to Anhui every year after completion. The Northern Shaanxi-Anhui UHVDC Project is a key project in the strategic deployment of the national construction of a new power system and the construction of a new energy system, and it is also the first UHVDC transmission channel with a high proportion of renewable energy fully consumed in Anhui. The project will access 11 million kilowatts of new energy such as supporting wind power and photovoltaic, and 4 million kilowatts of supporting coal power, which can promote the large-scale development and utilization of clean energy in Shaanxi.

2024 Government Work Report proposed to strengthen the construction of large-scale wind and photovoltaic power bases and transmission routes, promote the development and utilization of distributed energy, and improve the power grid’s capacity for absorbing, distributing, and regulating clean energy. With the rapid rise in the installed capacity of new energy, in order to ensure the good and fast delivery of clean power, the construction of power grid projects has accelerated this year.

At present, Jinshang-Hubei, Longdong-Shandong, Ningxia – Hunan, Hami-Chongqing ±800kV UHVDC projects, Wuhan – Nanchang, Zhangbei-Shengli, Sichuan-Chongqing 1000kV UHVAC projects are being fully promoted. The orderly layout of the delivery channels of large-scale wind power photovoltaic bases and the continuous improvement of the main grid frame have laid a solid foundation for large-scale new energy consumption, safe operation of the grid and stable power supply.

Look the new energy’s utilization rate scientifically

In recent years, China’s new energy has achieved high-quality development with an average annual installed capacity growth of 26% and a utilization rate of over 95% for five consecutive years. However, with the further expansion of the installed capacity of new energy resources, it is becoming more and more difficult to maintain a high level of consumption. Blindly pursuing a high proportion of consumption is not a sensible strategy.

From a global perspective, as the permeability rate of new energy power generation increases, the curtailment rate is on the rise, which has become an objective law. There are varying degrees of new energy power curtailment in European and US, and the wind power curtailment rate in 2020 is generally between 3% to 11%. According to relevant studies, the critical point for the permeability rate of new energy power generation is roughly between 30% to 40%. The curtailment rate is generally not high within the critical value and the curtailment rate will increase significantly beyond the critical value.

In fact, the utilization of new energy resources is not the higher the better. At a certain stage of development and above the value, each step of the increase in the utilization of new energy has to pay a huge cost of consumption and the rise of social energy. The scale of new energy development will also be limited. International scholars have proposed the concept of “economic power curtailment” for new energy, which is to avoid the excess costs incurred by consuming new energy during peak hours.

In the context of high permeability of new energy, it is economical and necessary to maintain the level of rational utilization. As early as in March 2021, Huang Xuenong, then director of the Electric Power Department of the National Energy Administration (NEA), mentioned that it is necessary to scientifically formulate targets for rational utilization of new energy when responding to the issue of how to ensure the consumption of new energy.

In June 2022, the “14th Five-Year Plan for Renewable electricity Development” was issued jointly by the National Development and Reform Commission, the National Energy Administration and other nine departments. By 2025, China’s total renewable electricity and non-hydropower consumption quota will reach about 33% and 18% respectively, and the utilization rate will remain at a reasonable level.

The experts suggest that the rational utilization rate of new energy should be related to its penetration rate. On the basis of clarifying the overall utilization target of the whole country, the utilization target of each province should be set differentially according to the resource endowment and the actual situation, with the guidance of raising the proportion of new energy generation. 

At the same time, the expected utilization rate of each province should be calculated and released on a rolling basis, and the investment of new energy generation enterprises should be guided.

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