China’s coal power generation capacity will grow as much as 19 percent over the next five years even as the world’s biggest energy consumer expands use of non-fossil fuels.
While coal-fired plant capacity will increase, it will still remain below 1,100 gigawatts, National Energy Administration Chief Engineer Han Shui said Monday in a webcast posted on the agency’s website. Non-fossil power will increase 48 percent to about 770 gigawatts over the five-year period through 2020 as total capacity expands by 31 percent to 2,000 gigawatts.
President Xi Jinping’s government is seeking to replace coal with cleaner fuels to help cut pollution that has plagued some of China’s biggest cities including Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai. The country has said it plans to raise natural gas consumption to 10 percent of its total energy mix by 2020 from around 6 percent now.
“Coal consumption growth over the next five years is projected to be stronger than previously expected,” Helen Lau, an analyst at Argonaut Securities Asia Ltd., said by phone. “That implies that coal production must not be reduced further, otherwise, the coal market will be in deficit.”
China will need to cut about 150 gigawatts of coal-fired power from projects that are either approved for construction or already under construction to maintain the 1,100-gigawatt limit, Huang Xuenong, director of the power generation division of NEA said during the webcast. Without restrictions the country’s coal-fired power capacity could reach about 1,250 gigawatts by 2020, he said.
Hydro-power will account for about 340 gigawatts of the projected 770 gigawatts of non-fossil-fuel generation capacity by 2020. Wind will make up about 210 gigawatts and nuclear power 58 gigawatts, according to the NEA.
China’s total power consumption may increase to between 6.8 trillion kilowatt hours to 7.2 trillion kilowatt hours by 2020, with an average annual increase of about 3.6 percent to 4.8 percent from 2016 to 2020.
Principal sources of US electricity in 2014 were: coal (39%), natural gas (27%), nuclear (19%), Hydro (6%), and other renewables (7%). Over the decade 2004—2014, the largest increases in electrical generation came from natural gas (2014 generation was 412 billion kWh greater than 2004), wind (increase of 168 billion kWh) and solar (increased 18 billion kWh). Over the same decade, annual generation from coal decreased 393 billion kWh, and from petroleum decreased 90 billion kWh
In 2014 the total US consumption of electric energy was 4,146.2 Terawatt hours (TWh) (or million MWh or billion kWh). US electrical consumption is about flat because at 1-2% GDP growth the increase can be achieved with more efficiency in home, factory and business equipment and facilities.
China’s 3.6%-4.8% increase in electricity usage suggests a continued 7 to 7.5% GDP growth plan.
China may be planning to export coal generated electricity to Europe, via ultra high voltage power lines, to arbitrage permanent structural price differences between restrictive European Paris Agreement pledges, and the Chinese commitment to do whatever they want.
State Grid Corp. of China, which runs the majority of the nation’s electricity distribution network, is considering how to build links to India, South Korea, Japan and Southeast Asia, a move that would require billions of dollars of investment in long-distance, high-voltage power lines.
Interconnections would allow grid managers throughout the region to more flexibility use variable supplies coming from wind and solar farms cropping up from Vietnam to Mongolia. For China, the links would provide customers for power from hundreds of power plants finished in the past few years as demand in its domestic market stagnates.
“We can export to India and Southeast Asia where the power supply is inadequate,” Zhang Qiping, chief engineer of State Grid, said Tuesday at a conference hosted by Bloomberg New Energy Finance in Shanghai.
Signals pointing toward the priority that China places on inter-connectors emerged in March. Then, State Grid joined Tokyo-based wireless carrier SoftBank Group Corp., Korea Electric Power Corp. and Russian grid company Rosseti Pjsc in agreeing to research and plan for interconnected power grids in Northeast Asia as part of a plan dubbed “Asia Super Grid.”
State Grid’s Wang has also proposed an ultra-high-voltage global power network to transmit electricity from country to country and continent to continent, with costs estimated at $50 trillion to develop by 2050.
“It’s doable in technology,” said Wang, adding current ultra-high voltage lines can transmit as much as 15 gigawatts of power through 5,000 kilometers.
China’s top electricity supplier, State Grid Corp, is set to export its ultra-high-voltage technology to India soon, as it pushes to expand its large-scale network both at home and abroad, a senior official at the utility company said.
“We have been having talks in India about testing some ultra-high-voltage projects. Those talks are at an early stage, but there is a great chance that some Chinese technology will be used,” said Li Peng, head of the high-voltage division at China Electric Power Research Institute, a unit of the State-owned utility company.
The talks concern ultra-high-voltage or UHV technology, which provides large-scale power delivery over long distances and can reduce energy loss during transmission, he said.
“China is a country with rich experience in building large-scale power transmission infrastructure, so it has become the first choice for other countries in need,” he told China Daily.
Li made his remarks at a forum in Tianjin, where a 1,000-kilovolt transmission project is expected to be completed by October, marking the latest effort by State Grid to ease power shortages in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region.
A State Grid employee works on an ultra-high-voltage transmission construction in Huainan, Anhui province. [Photo for China Daily by Song Weixing]
Beijing-based State Grid is building an ultra-high-voltage cross-country transmission network in the world’s biggest energy-consuming market, that will link major hydropower plants and coal-fired plants in the far southwest and northwest with big energy-consuming regions in the east.
The company plans to use its domestic experience to win more exports of its technology and equipment. Last year it inked framework deals with Russia and Kazakhstan for cross-country electricity transmission lines.
State Grid also scored with its bid to build and operate two transmission lines connecting the Belo Monte Amazon dam in northern Brazil to the southeast of the country, the first ultra-high-voltage transmission project it won overseas.