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New energy sector heralds novel power system

By LIU YUKUN | China Daily | Updated: 2023-02-04 07:02

A technician inspects power cables 60 meters above ground in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, in January. SHI JUN/FOR CHINA DAILY

Chinese companies are accelerating the construction of a new type of power system on the back of renewable electricity growth, spurring demand for smart grids and power storage, experts said.

The new power system takes wind, solar, nuclear, biomass and other new energies as the mainstay, with other resources like coal as supplements.

It highlights the advancement of technology to support a large scale of new energies smoothly connecting to the grid.

Lin Boqiang, head of the China Institute for Studies in Energy Policy at Xiamen University in Fujian province, said: "Different from fossil fuels, new energy power generation has higher requirements for the safe and stable operation of the power system. That's because most new energies are intermittent resources, which have rapid and random changes. This makes it hard for stable and steady power generation.

"Besides, it causes volatility in voltage and frequency disturbances in grid operation during power transmission. As a result, it's necessary to develop new power systems to meet growing demand buoyed by increasing new energy installations."

Lin also said that as important components of the new power system, the promotion of smart grids and power storage will help mitigate the fluctuations in new energy power generation and transmission.

Last year, State Grid Corp of China put into operation 15 sets of pumped storage facilities with an installed capacity of 4.55 million kilowatts, exceeding the annual production plan of 12 sets. By the end of 2022, the company's installed capacity of pumped storage totaled 28.06 million kW.

The company vowed to expand its pumped storage installed capacity to 100 million kW by 2030.

As an important way of power storage, pumped storage facilities have two water reservoirs at different elevations. The facility pumps water from the lower reservoir to the upper reservoir when there is excess power on the grid and releases water to generate power when there is demand for electricity.

China Southern Power Grid has also stepped up efforts in the sector. As of November, its seven pumped storage power stations generated 8.585 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity. It vowed to expand its pumped storage installed capacity by 6 million kW during the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) period.

The two companies also beefed up grid construction. SGCC planned 38 ultrahigh voltage grid projects from 2021 to 2025 with a total investment of 380 billion yuan ($56.4 billion), as China's new energy saw rapid development in recent years.

According to the China Electricity Council, in 2022, China's newly installed power generation capacity was 200 million kW, of which 160 million kW was that of nonfossil energies.

Many regions said they now have record installed capacities in new energy power generation. For instance, State Grid Xinjiang Electric Power Co Ltd, which is responsible for power supply in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, said the installed capacity of new energy power generation in the region reached a record 40.655 million kW, accounting for 36.09 percent of the total installed capacity.

The Northwest Branch of State Grid Corp of China, responsible for power generation in five provinces and regions in Northwest China, including Gansu province and Qinghai province, reported installed capacity of 157 million kW of new energy power generation in these areas, accounting for 45 percent of the total and surpassing that of coal.

The company said new energies have, for the first time in history, become the largest source of power generation in Northwest China.

"China has seen rapid development of new energies in recent years with the advancement of technologies and production of high-quality equipment. With more support from the government and the capital market in the pipeline, China is very likely to lead the world in the new energy sector and become an important force in the establishment of the framework of global standards for the international new power system," Lin said.

Last year, the International Electrotechnical Commission proposed China leads the creation of the framework of global standards of core technologies in the world's first new power system, in a bid to accelerate the low-carbon transition of the energy sector.


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