China saw a record high of renewable capacity additions in 2020 – 120GW of wind and solar projects were installed, making an astonishing 29% yoy growth of wind and solar generation capacity. Meanwhile, coal’s share in the total power generation capacity dropped below 50% for the first time. This is according to the latest data from China’s National Energy Administration and China Power News.
The latest official data shows that more than 120GW of wind and solar generation capacity was added in China in 2020. Although a large fraction of new wind additions was actually built in 2019 but counted in 2020, still very clearly, one cannot under-estimate the implications of such a surge of renewables.
It revealed that the announcement of the 2060 carbon neutrality vision has already altered the expectations and behaviour of all stakeholders in the energy sectors. It’s expected that renewable energy will continue developing rapidly in China in the following years, despite the interruption of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In that opportunistic outlook, there is an urgent need for the grid companies to improve the system operation and to quickly step up their capability to integrate the renewable energy.
Coal as China’s largest energy source, is seeing itself making way for the rapid expansion of renewables.
China’s power generation capacity increased by almost 200GW in 2020, bringing the total capacity to over 2200GW. Solar and wind’s share in the total generation capacity continued to increase, while coal’s share further shrank. The average utilization rate of the coal power fleet also continued a decreasing trend.
2020 additions Total installed capacity 2020 Share in total generation capacity 2020 Share in total generation
Coal 55 GW 1095 GW 49.8% 51.7%
Solar 48.2 GW 253.4 GW 11.5% 10.2%
Wind 71.7GW 281.5 GW 12.8% 10.4%
Hydro 13.2GW 370.1 GW 16.8% 17.7%
The surge of wind and solar additions is believed to be driven by multiple reasons:
a) More than 20GW of the wind projects were built in 2019 but only connected to the grid in 2020.
b) Both the on-shore wind and solar projects had been rushing for integration to meet the subsidy deadline.
c) China’s National Energy Administration issued a notice in Sep 2020, asking the grid companies to connect ‘as much as possible’ to the newly-added RE installation and absorb the un-expected surge, a clear policy signal to allow further space for RE expansion.
Views expressed here are those of Dr. Seema Javed, a known Environmentalist, Journalist and Communication Expert