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China

Wind emerges as integral part of China's economic roadmap

CHINA: China has carved out a key role for wind power in its latest five-year plan (FYP), the 12th in its decades-long series of economic development road maps. The new plan depicts wind and other renewables as integral to economic growth.

Delivering power. Wind is an essential part of China's growth plan
Delivering power. Wind is an essential part of China's growth plan

Under the draft FYP, which is currently being reviewed by China's top legislature the National People's Congress, installed wind power capacity will reach 90-100GW by the end of 2015 - more than double the 41.8GW currently installed. Solar and biomass energy combined will comprise about 30GW by that year.

This largely ties in with the unofficial government target of 150GW installed wind capacity by 2020. This would require 12GW new capacity each year. However, He Dexin, president of the China Wind Energy Association, forecasts that capacity could rise to as much as 200GW by then.

The government's Wind Energy and Solar Energy Resources Evaluation Centre estimates that China has about 2.3TW of potential onshore wind power resource and 200GW offshore. However, there has been criticism that the country is cutting corners in its breakneck development of wind power, resulting in large numbers of wind turbines being erected but remaining disconnected from the grid. This then causes economic inefficiencies for wind projects.

This seems to be acknowledged by the draft FYP. "In order to effectively develop wind power," states the plan, "China must strengthen construction of the facilities supporting access to the grid."

Reaching users

Zhang Guobao, a government advisor and former National Energy Bureau (NEB) minister, comments on the report: "The key word is 'effectively'. It means China must do its best to solve problems sending wind power to the grid and transmitting wind power to end users."

About a quarter of installed wind power capacity is not connected to the grid, according to the NEB. Yet the target set in the draft five-year plan refers to wind capacity that is actually online, insists Liang Zhipeng, NEB deputy director of renewable energy.

Chinese transmission firm State Grid has said it is scrambling to remove obstacles blocking wind's access to the grid. It has now completed studies into expanding transmission for the country's eight planned wind complexes, each one to exceed 10GW.

Under its own five-year plan, State Grid proposes to provide enough grid capacity for 50GW of wind in 2011 and 100GW in 2015. It had originally expected to reach the 100GW mark by 2020.

Holistic plans

The government also appears eager to demonstrate that its master plan for wind power extends further than the plans for extending transmission. In January, the NEB said that China would not only carefully plot transmission for wind but also take a multi-faceted approach to fixing inefficiencies in power markets. In addition, it stated that China will continue building wind power complexes, part of the Wind Base initiative that was established in 2008.

The country's stance has attracted praise. A report commissioned by global financial firm HSBC comments on the FYP's emphasis on renewables. "(This) will deliver real carbon savings that could begin to curb national emissions, unlock new investment opportunities and ensure China is seen to be 'pulling its weight' on international climate targets," says the report, Delivering Low Carbon Growth: a Guide to the 12th Five-Year Plan. It adds that China's development strategy combines ambitious growth targets with low-carbon technology.

First for carbon

"For the first time in an FYP, China has set a national carbon-intensity-reduction target of 17%," the report says. Carbon intensity is the amount of CO2 omitted per unit of gross domestic product. The report adds that the FYP also seeks to boost investment for seven strategic industrial sectors that will spur renewables, low-carbon transport and energy-efficient technology.

Advisor Zhang suggests that current economic conditions should encourage such a trend. "Considering the high oil prices on the world market and China's vigorous development of new energy, the Chinese wind power industry will surely maintain the high development momentum over the next five years," he says.

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