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China

China

China - Wind has renewed spring in its step

CHINA: In 2013, Li Junfeng, director of the China Renewable Energy Industries Association, described 2012 as being like winter to the country's wind power sector. "But this year we can feel that spring is coming back," he said, adding that the momentum will continue through 2014.

Wait is over… New grid projects in China will ease curtailment problem (pic: Danish Wind Industry Association)
Wait is over… New grid projects in China will ease curtailment problem (pic: Danish Wind Industry Association)
Li's optimism is backed by figures from the Chinese Wind Energy Association (CWEA) and China Electricity Council. These show that 14.41GW of new capacity was installed and grid-connected during 2013, taking the total across the country to 75.48GW. (A further 16GW has been installed, but is yet to be connected.) The government also approved 27.55GW of new wind projects in 2013.

"The Ministry of Finance started to pay the defaulted subsidies of CNY 9.3 billion ($15 billion) last April, and the National Development and Reform Commission almost doubled the quota charged for renewable energy subsidy in the electricity price last October," says Shi Pengfei, honorary president of CWEA. "Both greatly encouraged the once-frustrated developers and aided the recovery in 2013."

A fall in coal prices also helped wind, according to Shi. Major wind farm developers are also big thermal power generators. The high price of coal in 2011 drained their profits, but when it fell in the second half of 2012, it left the developers better able to invest in wind power.

Curtailment problems

Curtailment has been a big problem for China's wind sector, severely discouraging investors' initiatives. Although progress is being made - some 15TWh of electricity generation was lost to curtailment in 2013, well down on 2012's figure of 21.8TWh - it remains a headache, especially in Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang, which enjoy the best wind resources.

Construction of new transmission projects should further alleviate this problem. The 800kV HVDC transmission project from Hami in western China to Zhengzhou went into operation in January. A similar line from Jiuquan to Hunan was also approved in 2013 with construction starting this year.

"Similar projects are planned in Inner Mongolia, Hebei and provinces in northeastern China. I believe the curtailment caused by insufficient transmission capacity will be greatly alleviated in these areas in the coming years," says Zhang Zhengling, vice-director of the development and planning department of the State Grid.

In addition to pushing on with grid building, China's National Energy Administration has committed to maintaining subsidies and to regulations that grant wind power priority access to the grid. The aim is to allow wind energy to compete on price with thermal energy by 2020. Offshore wind is also being promoted. The long-brewing regulations on the quota system for power generation from renewable energy sources are expected to be released in 2014. If the quota favouring renewable energy is set clearly, it will undoubtedly attract more investment in wind power projects.

Current political backdrop China has been suffering severe haze pollution since 2012, and demand for green power is now widespread. President Xi Jinping has pushed for simpler administrative procedures to speed wind developments

High point of 2013 Three of China's first four offshore wind power projects, with a total capacity of 700MW, finally won approval three years after the tender was held

Low point China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) closed its renewable energy unit after slow growth

Key influencer The Ministry of Finance started to pay the defaulted subsidies of CNY 9.3 billion last April, and the National Development and Reform Commission almost doubled the quota charged for renewable energy subsidy in the electricity price last October

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