With estimates of the amount of new solar generation capacity to be installed in China this year varying from 20-40 GW, analyst the Asia Europe Clean Energy (Solar) Advisory (AECEA) is steering a path between the two, albeit leaning to the upper estimate.
The in-country consultancy has confirmed rumors floated by the China Photovoltaic Industry Association (CPIA) that the country saw a December rally with 12 GW of new solar added last month.
An insider at trade body the CPIA told pv magazine 12.2 GW of new solar was plugged in last month to take the figure to 30.1 GW for the year and the AECEA yesterday reported figures released by the National Energy Administration (NEA) which revealed China last year reached a total 204.68 GW of solar capacity.
2020 solar prediction
That would mean 12 GW was installed last month – after just 1 GW in October and 500 MW in November – with 30.22 GW added during 2019.
AECEA director Frank Haugwitz suggested the end-of-year rally was likely to have included projects approved up to three years ago whose developers have waited to exploit ever cheaper solar project components.
Haugwitz admitted the December surge was greater than the consultancy had anticipated and said the AECEA would revise up its estimate for new solar in China this year as a result. An anticipated year-on-year rise of 15-25% on last year’s 30.22 GW would add up to 34.8-37.8 GW of new PV capacity this year.
Coal reigns supreme
The NEA statistics published on Sunday, however, also reveal the scale of the problem faced by Beijing in achieving carbon emission reduction targets.
China added more new coal-fired generation capacity – 40.92 GW – in 2019 than it did for any other power source. That 4.1% annual rise took China’s total coal fleet to 1.19 TW. Solar came second, in terms of new capacity, with a 17.4% rise in new additions on 2018 and wind added 25.79 GW for a 14% rise to a cumulative 210 GW of generation capacity.
Some 4.17 GW of new hydropower took China to 356 GW after a modest 1.1% annual rise and nuclear added 4 GW of new generation facilities for a 9.1% annual rise, to a cumulative 49 GW of capacity.
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The climate significance of the new Chinese coal capacity depends on its utilisation rate. In turn, that depends on growth in electricity demand; with grid priority for renewables, coal is the swing producer. IIRC electricity demand is slowing, in line with the long-term trend – as it is in India. If this continues, many coal plants will be stranded.
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