Consultant plays down Chinese solar fever


In-country consultant the Asia Europe Clean Energy (Solar) Advisory (AECEA) has cast doubt on the ability of China's authorities to drive through a mooted 120 GW of new solar and wind power generation capacity this year.

The consultant reported the annual energy working meeting held by state body the National Energy Administration (NEA) last month stated it would consider gunning for the 120 GW figure this year, in the wake of a pledge by president Xi Jinping in mid December to achieve 1.2 TW of renewables generation facilities this decade.

However, even if the NEA adopts a 120 GW target – perhaps as part of the next, 2021-25 five-year plan – it is unlikely to achieve the ambition, according to the AECEA, which has offered 45-50 GW as its initial guesstimate of how much solar will be added in China this year.

Grid constraints

An update issued by the AECEA this morning stated the president's 2030 announcement had caused the Chinese renewables industry to get “carried away.” The analyst pointed to the warning issued by the State Grid Corporation of China nine months ago that only 48.45 GW of new solar project capacity, and 36.65 GW of wind could be accommodated on its network during 2020. The “up to 15” long-distance, ultra-high-voltage DC power lines which are under construction to alleviate capacity constraints will not enter service until at least 2022-23, according to the AECEA.

The world's solar capital experienced its usual end-of-year installation rush last month, according to the consultant, with official NEA figures expected this month to confirm up to 40 GW of new solar was added last year, with 14-15 GW coming online last month and November predicted to have seen 3.49 GW of the year's remarkable 10.1 GW of new residential arrays. That anticipated rooftop rush in November will have been helped by the “buffer month” guarantee to honor subsidies for household systems despite the fact the annual RMB500 million ($77.4 million) budget had been almost exhausted during October.

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Notably, the NEA is considering extending the household solar subsidy program this year and city authorities in Beijing, Shanghai, Xian and Guangzhou last month issued supportive policies for such arrays out to 2025.

If an annual figure of around 40 GW of new solar is confirmed for 2020, China would have reached 245 GW four days ago, obliterating the current five-year-plan target of 105 GW, according to the AECEA.

Guizhou is expected to have added 5.2 GW of solar capacity last year, to retain its top position, and the 4.57 GW of rooftop solar expected to have been added in Shandong, plus 4.1 GW in greater Hebei, are expected to have accounted for the lion's share of new household PV.

If those figures are borne out, the 1.2 TW renewables ambition announced by President Xi would require 72 GW of new wind and solar annually this decade, a figure which is already expected to have been beaten by around 18% last year. The AECEA stated the National Energy Administration has a 50 GW renewables pipeline plus plans for a “reserve capacity” of around 40 GW in the form of more than 20 clean-energy mega-projects. The consultant added, state utilities are aiming to install 175-200 GW of renewables by 2025.

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