One area where China has come from a standing start to lead the world in a very short period of time is installed wind power. Virtually devoid of any clean power a decade ago, in 2015 China installed nearly 50% of all new wind capacity worldwide, according to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC). China added 30.5 gigawatts (GW) to boost total installations to over 145 GW. This overtook the EU for the first time which added just 6GW, for a total capacity of just under 142 GW
Along with wind power, the Chinese government expects other environmentally friendly energy generating solutions, including solar, nuclear and hydropower, to make up over 30% of its total energy mix by 2020. This is still dwarfed by coal, which in 2020 will have a 60% share; however it’s a huge step in the right direction.
However with the explosion of renewable energy, there comes another problem, curtailment. Curtailment is when there is shortage of transmission capacity in the grid to facilitate the power generated. This is a particular problem with wind and hydropower, as often these projects are in more remote regions, where the grid is oldest and in need of updating.
To solve this problem, China’s two largest power grid operators, China Southern Power Grid Corp and China State Grid Corp will spend a combined $315bn to build long-distance transmission and active power distribution networks. The plan is to build this smart grid by 2020 and further promote the spread of clean energy. The first of these ultra-high-voltage (UHV) transmission lines, which links Jiuquan in western Gansu province to Xiangtan in central Hunan province, a total distance of over 2,300 kilometres is due to be operating by 2017.