China leads the world in the deployment of renewable power, with more than twice as much capacity as any other nation. Almost 30% of the world’s renewable power capacity is in China. In 2017, almost half the renewable power capacity added globally was in China.1
More than a third of China’s power capacity is renewable. In 2017, roughly 19% of China’s power capacity was hydro, 9% was wind and 7% was solar.2
In 2017, renewables provided roughly a quarter of the electricity generated in China -- 19% from hydropower, 5% from wind and 2% from solar. (The percentage of electricity generated from wind and solar is less than their percentage of installed capacity for two principal reasons. First, wind and solar power are not available as continually as other power sources, since the wind doesn’t always blow and Sun doesn’t always shine. Second, wind and solar power projects are sometimes curtailed, meaning they are not used even when they could be generating power.)3
Curtailment of wind and solar power is a challenge in China. Curtailment occurs for two principal reasons:
First, thermal power plants typically have priority over wind and solar plants under electricity dispatch rules. When power systems have excess capacity, as is common in China today, utilization of wind and solar plants can be quite low.
Second, wind and solar plants are sometimes built without transmission connections. Those transmission connections follow, but sometimes with a lag of months or years.
In 2015 and 2016, curtailment rates for wind and solar power were in the range of 15%–20% nationally, reaching 40% in some provinces. In 2017, curtailment rates dropped to roughly 12% for wind and 6% for solar.4
The Chinese government’s support for renewable energy dates back to at least the 9th Five- Year Plan (1996–2000), which set targets for “new and renewable energy.” In 2005, the Renewable Energy Law set national renewable energy targets and established feed-in tariffs for renewable energy.5
The 13th Five-Year Plan on Renewable Energy was released by NDRC in December 2016. The plan calls for
increasing the share of nonfossil energy in primary energy consumption to 15% by 2020 and 20% by 2030,
increasing renewable power capacity to 680 GW by 2020,
promoting offshore wind development,
innovating in renewable energy technology,
reducing renewable power curtailment, and
scaling up distributed solar generation.
The plan is implemented through many specific policies and measures, including feed-in tariffs and access to capital from government policy banks.6
1. REN21, “Renewables 2018 Global Status Report” at table R2, http://www.ren21.net/wp-content/ uploads/2018/06/17-8652_GSR2018_FullReport_web_-1.pdf; IRENA, “Renewable Capacity Statistics 2018”at p.2, http://irena.org/publications/2018/Mar/Renewable-Capacity-Statistics-2018.
2. National Bureau of Statistics, “Statistical Bulletin 2017” (February 28, 2018) at Part 3, http://www.stats.gov. cn/english/pressrelease/201802/t20180228_1585666.html and http://www.stats.gov.cn/tjsj/zxfb/201802/ t20180228_1585631.html; China Energy Portal, “2017 Electricity & Other Energy Statistics” (February 6, 2018), https://chinaenergyportal.org/en/2017-electricity-energy-statistics/.
3. China Energy Portal, “2017 Electricity & Other Energy Statistics” (February 6, 2018); see generally John Mathews and Hao Tan, “China’s Continuing Green Shift in the Electric Sector,” Asia Pacific Journal (March 15, 2017), http:// apjjf.org/-John-A--Mathews--Hao-Tan/5038/article.pdf; Lori Bird, Jaquelin Cochran and Xi Wang, “Wind and Solar Energy Curtailment,” NREL (2014) at p.iv, http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy14osti/60983.pdf (“Curtailment is a reduction in the output of a generator from what it could otherwise produce given available resources, typically on an involuntary basis”).
4. National Energy Administration (NEA), “News Release on renewable power generation 2017” (January 24, 2018), http://www.nea.gov.cn/2018-01/24/c_136920159.htm; National Energy Administration (NEA), “A report on grid connected capacity for wind energy in 2016” (January 26, 2017) at p.75, http://www.nea.gov.cn/2017- 01/26/c_136014615.htm; National Energy Administration (NEA), “Monitor Report on renewables power generation 2015” (August 2016), http://zfxxgk.nea.gov.cn/auto87/201608/t20160823_2289.htm; Edmund Downie, “Sparks fly over ultra-high voltage power lines,” China Dialogue (January 29, 2018), https://www.chinadialogue.net/article/ show/single/en/10376-Sparks-fly-over-ultra-high-voltage-power-lines; Mathews and Tan, “China’s Continuing Green Shift” (March 15, 2017) at p.6.
5. State Planning Commission, “新能源和可再生能源发展纲要” [Outline to Develop New Energy and Renewable Energy (January 5, 1995), http://www.law-lib.com/law/law_view.asp?id=59634; Lisa Williams, “China’s Climate Change Policies – Actor and Drivers,” Lowy Institute For International Policy (July 2014) at p.2, https://www.files.ethz. ch/isn/182715/chinas-climate-change-policies.pdf; Feng Wang, Haitao Yin and Shoude Li, “China’s Renewable Energy Policy: Commitments and Challenges,” Energy Policy (2010), http://www.ourenergypolicy.org/wpcontent/ uploads/2014/07/China.pdf.
6. NDRC, “13th Five-Year Plan for Renewable Energy,” http://www.ndrc.gov.cn/zcfb/zcfbtz/201612/ W020161216659579206185.pdf.