Solar offers rare cheer in China Power figures

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The reliability of solar power, compared fossil fuels subject to price swings, has again been illustrated in the annual figures produced by power company China Power Clean Energy Development Co Ltd.

The utility was hammered last year by a fall in the tariff paid to natural gas and a rise in generation costs, with the profits recorded from the fossil fuel falling 75.2% on the previous year.

Natural gas made up 1.3 TW of China Power’s generation portfolio last year and with hydro supplying 651 MW, profits from that source dried up too – literally – with performance down 186.2% on 2017 after reduced rainfall in Fujian drastically affected power output.

Solar, however was a different story with the meagre 327 MW portfolio held by China Power contributing RMB339 million ($50 million) to the bottom line, up from RMB318 million a year earlier. That change raised solar’s contribution to 7.1% of group profits, up from 6.6%.

The company also reported impressive progress in reducing the curtailment of solar, with only 1.1% of the power generated from the company’s 15 solar projects wasted, compared to 4.1% in 2017.

Wind power lost

Wind, the biggest source of China Power’s electricity output with 1.5 TW of generation capacity, told a different story, with 20.4% of the utility’s wind power lost. That still represented progress though, after 32% of China Power’s wind energy went to waste in 2017.

The big hits on hydro and natural gas meant China Power’s gross group profits plummeted from RMB560 million in 2017 to RMB239 million, despite only a slight dip in overall revenue year on year, from RMB4.82 billion to RMB4.8 billion.

Despite the impressive PV performance, however, China Power announced an intent to focus on its energy-from-waste operations this year, with a special emphasis on medical and food waste and sludge as raw materials. Waste-to-energy contributed just 126 MW to the company portfolio last year with other power sources, including biomass and coal, making up the remaining 21 MW.

China Power’s annual report did add it plans to increase the capacity and efficiency of “obsolete photovoltaic power plants” as well as integrating resources such as energy storage.

But perhaps the most sobering aspect of the 247-page update was the risk to operations posed by “extreme climate conditions”. A little more solar and a lot less gas and coal might help on that front.