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China's ambitious aim: a windy future
an article by Cecilia Tam, International Energy Agency (abridged)

China’s ambitions in wind power rival those of many IEA member countries: it plans to use turbines both on- and offshore to generate 8.4% of the country’s electricity by 2030 and then double that share just 20 years later. To reach those levels, a “roadmap” developed with the IEA sees China adding about 15 gigawatts (GW) of wind power each year to its 2010 base of 31GW, leaping from 1.3% of electricity production to 5% by 2020.

click on photo to enlarge

The roadmap was the result of a joint effort led by the Chinese National Development and Reform Commission’s Energy Research Institute (NDRC ERI) with close technical support from the IEA. It not only set the expectations for developing wind power but also assessed the country’s strengths, obstacles and priorities for fulfilling the roadmap.

China’s energy requirements have been surging along with its economy, with growth in electricity demand expected to outpace overall energy demand growth as it nearly doubles by 2020 to 8 000 terawatt-hours (TWh), then increasing to 10 000 TWh ten years later and 13 000 TWh in 2050. The roadmap plans for wind power to make up 15% of all installed capacity by 2030 and 26% by 2050. . .

Coal is the main fuel used in Chinese power generation, so the shift to wind power will help reduce pollution . . .

China also expects wind power to generate jobs, especially as its nascent industry gets off the ground. . . .

As the roadmap unfolds, the country will need to develop offshore wind to keep pace with growing demand for low-carbon electricity in Eastern China. . . . Though costlier, offshore installations benefit from higher load factors and reduced transmission costs, as the offshore potential is located in Eastern China, site of the main demand centres.

To reach its goals, China needs to do more than just install new wind turbines: it needs to reform significant elements of its energy system. As in other countries that are shifting to renewable energy, one major challenge is to orient pricing so it reflects the cost of environmental externalities – i.e. the price of carbon – as well as the value of flexibility and integration costs.

Also, China’s grid will need to be strengthened, expanded and integrated to allow wind power from windier but more remote parts of the country to reach easily and efficiently the main energy demand centres in the east, while also encouraging these windier areas to maximise their own use of wind power. Transparency in power prices and an inter-provincial grid must be in place by 2020.

In the immediate term, the roadmap calls for China to establish a renewables research and development fund and an experimental platform to develop and deploy 5MW wind technology by 2015. Near-offshore experimental technology must be in place by 2020. To build such expertise, the roadmap calls for specialist wind-power training courses and curricula to be added at Chinese universities by 2015.


Question(s) related to this article:

Despite the vested interests of companies and governments, Can we make progress toward sustainable development?

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Latest reader comment:

[responding to CPNN article The film 'Demain', a manifesto?

Yes initiatives from the grassroots are important and necessary which will have a direct impact on the present and the future. But there are governments like India which are conscious of over exploitation of the earth’s resources and are taking suitable policy measures and also taking legal action against the exploiters.

We must emphasize public transportation and reduce our dependence on individual cars even though the auto industry will not like this.

Otherwise it is not demain but aujourdhui — the problems are there for us to see.

This report was posted on January 22, 2013.