China is by far the biggest consumer of HVDC (High Voltage Direct Current) technology. The government has said it wants to spend $269 billion through 2015 on building about 200,000 kilometers of new 330-kilovolts-and-up transmission lines — almost the equivalent of rebuilding the United States’ 257,500-kilometer transmission network from scratch. Of that, State Grid Corp. of China plans to spend a staggering $80 billion on 40,000 kilometer of ultra-high voltage (UHV) DC lines from 2011 to 2015.
China is adding so much new transmission capacity and so many power lines that it could build three quarters the length of a new American transmission grid in just five years. When the dust settles, there will be over 200,000 kilometers of new 330-kilovolts-and-up transmission lines built, for a total of 900,000 kilometers of transmission lines, compared to 257,500 kilometers of transmission lines presently in the U.S.
China’s smart grid development includes six key areas: power generation, transmission, transformation, distribution, consumption, and dispatching. The smart grid covers all voltage levels to achieve the optimum power flow, information flow, and business flow, along with a high degree of integration. China is currently in the second stage of its smart grid deployment, according to the State Grid Corporation of China. Lasting from 2011-2015, this is the full construction phase. Pike Research forecasts that cumulative smart grid revenue in China will reach $127 billion by 2020. China represents 70% of the Asian smart grid market, and will invest close to US$250 billion into its grid over the next five years. There are major plans in motion in the areas of transmission, distribution automation, smart meters, electric vehicles (EV), and EV charging technologies, and over 263 smart grid pilot projects already underway
At a cost of $1.05 million per mile for UHV transmission line and equipment, each UHV line requires billions of dollars to build, and State Grid put in a staggering $80 billion investment into 40,000 kilometer of UHV lines for the 2011 to 2015 Construction Phase. The business case is readily apparent: a 2,000-kilometer, 800-kilovolt UHV DC line has an incredibly low 3.5 percent line loss rate per 1,000 kilometer and a high 6.4-gigawatt transmission capacity, all the while being 30 percent cheaper than a 500-kilovolt EHV DC or 800-kilovolt UHV AC line of the same length. By 2020, UHV lines will have 300 gigawatts of transmission capacity, roughly split 60 percent AC and 40 percent DC.
The transmission grid build-out also has an impact on technologies at the distribution level and downward. China is building 36 million new urban homes between 2011 and 2015, and modern building automation and smart meter technologies will be utilized.