Image: Wind Investment Monitor 2019 – courtesy China Energy Portal
By Charles F. Moreira, Editor
Having reported on China’s solar electricity generation initiatives and facilities, Enterprise Trade Views now takes a look at China’s wind-generated electricity initiatives and we find that more electricity in China is generated from wind than solar.
According to 2018 electricity & other energy statistics on China Energy Portal, an unofficial English translation site of official China government documents related to energy, China had 184,260 MW (megawatts) of wind-generated electricity capacity in 2018, up 12.4% from 164,000 MW in 2017.
In terms of annual electrical energy production, China generated 366,000 GWh (gigawatt-hours) of electrical energy from wind in 2018, up 20.2% from 304,600 GWh in 2017.
On the other hand, China had 733,393 MW installed solar-electric generation capacity in 2018, up 7.0% on 685,567 MW in 2017, whilst China generated 177,500 GWh of electrical energy from solar in 2018, up 50.8% from 117,800 GWh in 2018.
A world leader in wind energy
According to a study by the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21), wind power alone could provide electricity for all of China’s needs, provided she overhauls her rural electricity grids and raises the subsidy for wind energy.
China has become a world leader in wind energy and REN21 ranks her fourth in the world in terms of installed wind-electric generation capacity.
Wind farms require wide areas of open spaces where wind blows strongly and extensive regions of northern and western China are particularly suitable for wind energy, specifically the provinces of Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Gansu, and Tibet.
However, the windiest areas are sparsely populated regions where electricity demands are low, so high voltage transmissions lines are needed to connect these areas with electricity consumers in rapidly growing eastern China.
Meanwhile, existing wind farms face problems with being incorporated into the electricity grid and whilst China’s law prioritises renewable power to the grid, but a physical lack of grid capacity has limited wind energy’s ability to reach customers, according to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC).
Despite that, wind farms have expanded rapidly across China, with the country having achieved wind-electric generating cabpacity of 5 GW in 2007, three years ahead of the 2010 target set by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China’s top economic planner.
This is thanks to the passage of a 2005 renewable energy law, which granted renewable energy providers with 10-year contracts and guaranteed subsidies. The law also differentiates wind energy tariffs for various regions throughout the country.
In an effort to stimulate the domestic wind industry, the China’s government also issued tax rebates in 2018 for state-owned wind turbine manufacturers. Of China’s 70 manufacturers which produce wind turbines, over 20 were established in 2018, according to the GWEC.
Measures to rationalise investments
According to China Energy Portal‘s English translation, in order to rationalise investments in wind power, the National Energy Administration’s (NEA) issued Circular on 2019 wind power investment monitoring and early warning results addressed to the Development and Reform Commission, Commission of Economy and Informatisation (Office of Industry and Information Technology), Energy Bureaus, and local branches of the National Energy Administration of all provinces (autonomous regions, directly-controlled municipalities) and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, the State Grid Corporation, China Southern Power Grid Corporation, Inner Mongolia Electric Power Company, China Huaneng Group Corporation, China Datang Corporation, China Huadian Corporation, National Energy Investment Corporation, State Power Investment Corporation, China Resources Group Corporation, China Three Gorges Corporation, National Development and Investment Corporation, China National Nuclear Corporation, China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group, Power Planning and Design Institute, Hydropower Planning and Design Institute, the Expert Commission on Wind Energy of the National Renewable Energy Association, and the National Renewable Energy Center：
In it the NEA urged all parties about wind power investment monitoring and early warning mechanism based on colour coding for different autonomous regions and municipalities in order to improve the investment environment for wind power development and construction, to promote the sustainable and healthy development of wind power industry.
Based upon monitoring of 2018 operational status of grid-connected wind power grid-connected operation status in all provinces (autonomous regions, municipalities), and the forecast of conditions for wind power consumption in 2019, the early warning results for 2019 wind power development and investment are colour coded as follows:-
- Red means construction of wind power must cease in the areas – namely Xinjiang (including XPCC) and Gansu.
- Orange means all new wind power projects are to be temporarily suspended in the areas – namely Inner Mongolia, Xinzhou, Shuozhou and Datong in Northern Shanxi, Yulin in Northern Shaanxi, and Zhangjiakou and Chengde in Northern Hebei.
- Green means that construction may continue in an orderly manner according to plan.
All relevant administrative areas should adhere to the Guiding opinions on the implementation of the 13th Five Year Plan for renewable energy development as well as the NEA’s requirements for the competitive allocation of wind power projects in 2019, adhere to basic requirements for grid access and consumption markets, and standardise competition for the development of new wind power projects requiring subsidies.
China’s energy mix
China’s overall electrical generation capacity in 2018 was 1,899,670 MW, up 6.5% from 1,784,18 MW in 2017, whilst total electrical energy produced was 6,994,000 GWh, up 8.4% from 6,452,900 GWh in 2017.
The lion’s share of China’s electrical generation capacity remains thermal (i.e. coal, gas, oil and biomass) at 1,143,670 MW in 2018, up 3.0% from 1,110,090 MW in 2017, whilst thermal-generated electrical energy was 4,923,100 GWh in 2018, up 7.3% on 4,587,700 GWh in 2017.
Coming second after thermal was hydro-electricity with generation capacity of 352,260 MW in 2018, up 2.5% on 343,770 MW in 2017, whilst hydro-electric energy generated was 1,232,900 GWh in 2018, up 3.2% on 1,194,700 GWh in 2017.
Installed nuclear-electric generation capacity had the smallest share of 44,660 MW in 2018, though it increased by 24.7% from 35,820 MW in 2017, whilst nuclear-electrical energy produced was second, ahead of solar at 294,400 GWh in 2018, up 18.6% from 248,100 GWh in 2017.
For reasons of energy security, China has been working towards reducing its reliance on oil and natural gas, a lot of which it imports.
According to the National Bureau of Statics, China’s crude oil imports surged by 10.1% year-on-year to 460 million tonnes in 2018, whilst China’s natural gas imports was 90.39 million tonnes in 2018, up 31.9% from 2017.
Meawhile, China’s domestic crude oil output was 190 million tonnes in 2018, down 1.3% from 2017, whilst natural gas output was 161 billion cubic metres in 2018, up 7.5% from 2017, amidst government efforts to encourage the use of clean energy.
China aims to increase domestic crude oil output to 200 million tonnes by 2020, while supply capacity for natural gas should exceed 360 billion cubic meters.
On the other hand, China produces a lot of coal and on 7 March 2018, China’s National Energy Administration said that 3.7 billion tonnes of coal in 2018, an all-time high and up 7.3% from 2017.
However, coal-fired electricity generating plants emit much pollution and carbod dioxide gas which is believed to contribute to global warming so China aimed to reduce its coal consumption to 59% of its primary energy mix in 2018 and aims to reduce it further to 50% by 2020 by increasing demand for renewable energy sources, according to the NEA.