Push for greener future could boost economy

By Li Qiaoyi Source:Global Times Published: 2017/11/7 22:03:39

Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT


The Chinese economy, long known as an energy glutton, has been pushing on with efforts to promote the use of renewable energy as part of a wide-ranging drive to improve the environment. In his report delivered to the opening of 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) last month, General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee Xi Jinping said that the country will promote a revolution in energy production and consumption, and build an energy sector that is clean, low-carbon, safe, and efficient.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the energy efficiency drive is that it could offer multi-faceted benefits for the economy, as well as finding ways to use cleaner resources in a more efficient fashion.

To start with, there are growing signs that the country is aligning its efforts to push for the renewable energy revolution with its global market ambition. For example, a State-level demonstration project in Zhangjiakou in North China's Hebei Province, which integrates wind, solar power generation, power storage and transmission is characteristic of the nation's steadfast commitment to renewable energy and technology.

The project is intended to provide a total of 500 megawatts (MW) of wind power generation, 100MW of solar power generation and 70MW of power storage. It's also outfitted with a 220 kilovolt smart converter station. The project, independently designed by State Grid Corp, is the largest of its kind in the world, enabling the simultaneous functioning of wind- and solar-power generating facilities and storage outfits, while also allowing for electricity transmission via smart grids. When the facilities have an excess of generation, the excess electricity will be held in storage, and if there is a lack of electricity the storage outfits will play their part.

A renewable energy project, as such, apparently serves as a spearhead for clean energy to gradually replace coal-fired power generation.

In a blueprint for the country's energy sector in the five years to 2020 unveiled by the National Energy Administration (NEA) in January, the energy agency revealed the nation's plan to have roughly half of new electricity generated by installed renewable power capacity such as wind, hydro, solar and nuclear power.

But beyond this, the nation is placing big bets on renewable energy as a means of increasing its clout in the global new-energy arena. For example, the Hebei demonstration project that exemplifies the country's push for homegrown new-energy technologies also serves as a reference for deploying China's smart grids and applying the country's renewable energy technologies in other countries and regions.

On top of that, the clean energy push is also seen galvanizing economic growth, not only in terms of giving a boost to energy-saving and environmental protection industries, but serving as a poverty fighter in a lesser-known way. For instance, State Grid's Baoding electric power supply company has invested in building solar energy systems in Laiyuan county in Baoding, one of the poorest areas in the country, enabling local residents to earn money by selling surplus electricity back to the grid.

To be sure, the renewable energy drive is by no means worry free. The grand plan laid out by the NEA envisions 2.5 trillion yuan ($376.86 billion) in spending on renewable power generation through 2020. The huge expenditure is comparable to projects operated purely by the government, and it remains somewhat unclear how this push will be in line with the country's pledge to let the markets play a decisive role.

In the case of the Hebei project, which involves investment of up to 10 billion yuan, there is still some way to go before it can achieve profitability. As Liu Hanmin, assistant chief engineer of Zhangjiakou Wind and Solar Power Energy Demonstration Station Co, a subsidiary of State Grid, said in late September, similar projects in overseas markets such as Germany are essentially market-oriented with investments and proceeds clearly specified. China is also expected to embrace market-based reforms in this regard.

Looking ahead, it is hoped that the country's renewable energy push can resonate with other initiatives, notably the Belt and Road, for there to be not only a greener China, but a greener world.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times. bizopinion@globaltimes.com.cn

Posted in: INSIDER'S EYE

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