China: New leadership in Beijing and plenty of promise for distributed PV in Guangdong


For the majority of the around 300 delegates the most important news of the day did not emanate from this rich province in southern China, but from China’s capital, Beijing, where the country’s new leadership was presented this morning with Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang at the top of the new seven-member Standing Committee of the governing body of the Chinese Communist Party.

Xi Jinping is set to become the country’s new President, succeeding the current President Hu Jintao, and Li Keqiang will take over from Wen Jiabao as the country’s Premier.

According to Professor Hui Shen, Director of the Institute for Solar Energy Systems at Sun Yat-Sen University and one of the leading photovoltaic experts in Guangdong province, Li Keqiang’s appointment should be good news for the country’s photovoltaic industry, since Li as China’s Vice Premier has been a leading advocate of renewable energy adoption in China.

No doubt due to Li’s efforts, Premier Wen Jiabao recently pushed the country’s grid monopolies to move faster to integrate renewable energy sources like photovoltaics. And increasingly, the Chinese government is promoting distributed photovoltaics, such as the recent 500 MW per province program, which by itself could add 15 GW of distributed photovoltaics by the end of the current 12th Five Year Plan (2011 to 2015).

In his presentation at today’s Forum, Shen lamented the fact that Guangdong had not done more to promote photovoltaics in recent years. For example, a plan to install 5 MW on the new Scientific Center in the province’s capital, Guangzhou was scrapped and the 240 KW put on the city’s new railway station was described as "kind of measly" by Shen.

And when the Asian Games were held in Guangdong recently, the organizers showed no interest in using solar energy. So there was clearly frustration in Shen’s depiction of the status quo, but hope that leaders like Li could push things forward and also challenge provincial and local officials to do more to support the photovoltaics industry.

Shen mentioned that he is not opposed to nuclear power in his province and country, but that the "Chinese PV industry would prosper if the country invested as much in PV as in nuclear power." As the recent central government initiatives regarding accelerated access to the grid and the promotion of distributed PV show, the policy and regulatory framework is in fact becoming increasingly favorable to photovoltaic installations in this country.

Guangchun Zhang, Senior Vice President of Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd, told the audience in one of the afternoon sessions, that China's top economic planning body, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), is about to announce additional policies to boost the domestic photovoltaics market further.

Zhang chairs SEMI’s China PV Standards Committee and more critically serves as a key intermediary between China’s photovoltaic industry, and the central government and key ministries like NDRC. He is pushing the government to adjust its photovoltaics subsidy system to take into account the country’s wide range of solar resources and provide additional support to distributed photovoltaics and self-consumption.

While many people regard the solar resources of Guangdong as inadequate, Shen set the record straight at today’s Forum that Guangdong’s solar resources are actually better than Beijing’s, which has a lot of sunshine, but little rain to clear the air and clean the photovoltaic modules.

Luo Duo, Chief Engineer at China Singyes Solar Technologies Holdings Limited, a Guangdong solar developer, showed the money-saving potential of photovoltaics in a smart micro-grid project her company is developing in Dong’ao island near Zhuhai. A tour of Dong’ao is on the Forum’s program tomorrow and Dong’ao is now powered largely by renewable sources, including a 100 KW system on its tourism center and a 256.7 KW system on its cultural center.

Having shifted from 100% diesel to 70% renewables and 30% diesel, the island has reduced its electricity bill dramatically – from RMB 3.8/kWh to just RMB 1.9/kWh – and made this tourist attraction even more popular with visitors.

As if to demonstrate the hope and potential that exists in Guangdong, the day ended with a tour of Lecong Steel World, a massive new steel manufacturing site and mixed development project in Shunde district, that is largely still on the drawing board, but promises to deliver 60 MW of roof-top PV to this new development.

There were not yet any solar modules to be seen, but the air was thick with promise that Guangdong and China were about to do a lot more in distributed PV power.

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