China's Power Sector - Statistics & Facts

The Chinese power industry has been in the focus of both domestic and international discussions ever since the reform and opening of the People’s Republic in the late 1970s. Seen as the engine room of industrial momentum by the Chinese government, the expansion of the pre-existing generation system using cheap and available resources was prioritized. Until the early 2000s, Chinese infrastructure struggled with imbalances in the electricity system, with wide parts of the country suffering from frequent local black-outs. In order to even out load peaks and valleys in the supply of electricity, the highly fragmented grid system had to be developed as well. As of February 2014, two out of five of the worlds’ longest HVDC transmission lines were located in China.

Since 2005, the Chinese government has intensified its efforts to privatize parts of the sector. Whereas the transmission and distribution of electricity remained under state control, the power generation market was partly opened to private and foreign investors. The main reasons for this change in direction were to be seen in the need to operate the system more cost-effectively and to attract clean technologies for power generation.

International criticism regarding China’s energy mix, with its heavy reliance on coal as main source for electricity generation, was joined by rising concerns of the populace over heavy CO2 and particle pollution measures. Over the decade up to 2013, renewable energy sources such as wind, biomass and solar power capacities have been developed at an incredible pace. Consumption of renewables in China ranged at about 43 million TOE by the end of 2013. Also, with a newly installed wind capacity of about 16 GW in 2013, China’s wind park displayed the largest growth pattern worldwide.

Apart from renewable energy sources, China has put a focus on the development of nuclear power over the past years. The investment structure of the electricity sector in China suggests a shift of investments from thermal and wind power towards nuclear and hydropower projects by the end of 2013. Overall investments in the sector had reached around 760 billion yuan in 2013, with around 390 billion being directed into grid development projects.

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