According to a recent report released by Clean Energy Pipeline, global clean energy backing in the first half of 2016 totalled US$116.4 billion. China was the largest investor, financing US$15.3 billion worth of solar and wind projects and accounting for nearly 30% of the world’s total solar and wind investment.
Yet despite its significant investment, the output of China’s push into renewable technologies continues to be limited by its grid system, and subsequent curtailment. Curtailment occurs when energy is available, but the operator does not allow that energy to be delivered to the grid because there is no demand and/or the energy cannot be stored. According to the central government, nearly 15% of wind-generated electricity went unused in 2015. Also contributing to this challenge is the disconnect between where energy is generated and where it is needed. As an example, in 2014, 46% of wind power curtailment was caused by a failure to use electricity generated in the province of Gansu.
As China continues to promote and transition to a greener economy, and strives to meet its target to supply 20% of electricity from renewable energy resources by 2030, we can expect further investment in renewable energy technologies. But with the market currently structured to source energy from fossil fuels, it must continue evolve to achieve a fuller transition to renewable energy and optimise investments in wind and solar technology.
Haibing Ma, China Program Manager at the Worldwatch Institute recently said that: “Current policies can only solve the curtailment problem to a limited extent. The more important thing is electricity market reform.”
The National Energy Administration – the government body responsible for maintaining China’s electricity grid infrastructure network – has recently set a megawatt cap for new solar capacity installations as part of a bid to limit curtailment. It will be interesting to see what other measures are implemented to reduce renewable energy wastage going forward.
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