Analysis: China takes measures to halt curtailment

CHINA: Statistics released by the National Energy Administration (NEA) show the wind curtailment average for the whole country dropped to 8% in 2014, down four percentage points on the preceding year.

Grid issues have been one source of China's curtailment problem
Grid issues have been one source of China's curtailment problem

But the issue remains a serious problem for the country's wind industry.

This year a record capacity will be installed and there are already concerns about curtailment. So much so that on 20 March, the NEA released a 25-point set of guidelines. Three days later it issued another, more urgent notice, outlining six points promoting wind turbine grid connection and methods to help reduce production curtailment in the coming months.

Last year's reduction was attributed to government and corporate efforts to encourage use of wind power and build more transmission lines. Wind speeds were also generally lower.

NEA statistics show China had 19.81GW of new wind capacity connected to the grid in 2014. According to the Chinese Wind Energy Association (CWEA), actual installations reached 23.2GW. Of this around 18.24GW is awaiting a grid connection.

This year a further boost is expected in the vast and sparsely populated regions of northern China. The problem of curtailment there could be "very serious", the NEA said. Worryingly, Q1 data will show the NEA was right to be concerned. According to a government insider, wind curtailment rates in Q1 across the country have been very high.

While there are multiple ways of reducing curtailment, such as UHV lines and distributed development, in some people's eyes the most effective means is taking the utilities and grid operators to task through decrees or laws.

The NEA has called for "the ensured full purchase amount" of renewable power. This was used in the Renewable Energy Law (REL) that became effective on 1 January 2006. But the law contains a loophole in that it fails to explain how the aim can be implemented.

The latest government call is more specific. It plans to ensure the sale of renewable energy by including specific targets in the annual power production plan.

Securing production quota in this way would in theory ensure connection and thus the sale of wind power. In the past, the division of these quotas have been decided by conventional fossil-fuelled producers, with little regard to renewables.

Earlier this year, NEA New & Renewable Energy Division deputy director Shi Lishan warned that local government would be measured by their adinistrative ability to utilise the wind energy.

His words were followed by government action. The, NEA set out monthly requirements for local government departments and companies to fill in information about the state and performance of wind and other renewables in their regions.

Besides the measures mentioned above, the NEA documents reiterated the need to rationalise the location of wind facilities, giving more emphasis to development in central, eastern and southern parts of the country. Here load demands are relatively high.

Additionally, pilot projects are encouraged in some areas to use wind energy for heating and making hydrogen.

Responding to NEA calls, some local authorities have intensified their efforts to reduce wind curtailment.

Inner Mongolia and Hubei recently announced their plans for 2015. The former aims at a 15% share of renewables in total power consumption. The latter sets the goal of 3% of renewable capacity in total power installations. Companies that fail to meet the targeted rates are urged to pay green power projects for compatible amounts of carbon emission reduction.

Moreover, the State Grid announced earlier this month that it would build an average of 27GW of grid connecting facilities in each of the following years up to 2020, allowing 17GW of new wind turbines to go online every year. Statistics show that it accommodated 87.9GW of the country's wind capacity at the end of 2014, more than 90% of the national total.

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