Despite the on-going global economic slowdown, growth predictions about China’s wind power sector are optimistic. On Monday, the deputy director general of China’s National Energy Administration acknowledged that wind energy is the third largest source of electricity in the world’s most populous nation after thermal and hydro power.
“Wind power has become the third-largest electric power in China,” Liu Qi said. “There is no electric power to substitute the position of wind power as number three, following thermal power and hydropower.”
A press release noted that China’s current energy policy says that wind power in the nation will be developed efficiently because it “is the non-hydro renewable energy with the biggest possibility of large-scale development and market utilisation at the moment.”
The Chinese government has a target of 150 GW or more by 2020 – the equivalent to 13 Three Gorges dams. By 2015, the country is likely to have 100 GW in wind power capacity – the same level reached by Europe in 2012.
China’s wind energy sector has significant safety issues to address, as well as a huge lack of grid capacity – around 20-30% of turbines installed in 2011 were not grid connected and safety issues have led to several fatalities. The state claims standards and industry monitoring for wind power equipment shall be improved, the press release said.
Improved grid construction and dispatching, enhanced equipment performance, and advanced wind power predictions and forecasts will also help the sector reach a total installed wind capacity of 100 GW, by 2015, the press release says.
In June 2012 EWEA’s Wind Directions magazine travelled to China to find out more, read the full seven-page focus here.
Meanwhile, according to Clean Technica, a popular clean energy website in the US, the report predicts steady government support and rising demand will keep the country far ahead of the renewable energy economies of America, Europe, and India.
The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) has predicted ambitious targets for the Chinese wind power sector by 2015. In its Global Wind Energy Outlook 2012 report, the council predicted the nation would, under its Moderate Growth Scenario, have 125 GW by the end of 2015. Under the Advanced Growth Scenario, China would have 134 GW of installed capacity.
By comparison, according to GWEC, China had more than 62 GW of total installed wind power capacity at the end of 2011.
While all of this seems positive for the wind power sector in China, the sector is currently experiencing over-capacity and a slowdown with installation rates expected to be stable for 2012 and 2013, which compares to a doubling in capacity experienced from 2003-2007 and again from 2008-2009.
It also is important to remember that the nation still has a long way to go to deal with the fact that the country is the world’s largest carbon emitter and relies far too heavily on coal to fuel a rapidly-expanding economy that is trying to keep up with increased energy demands. Coal, moreover, still accounts for 70-80% of the Chinese energy sector.
According to the briefing pages “coal in the rich world” in the latest Economist, in 2011 China overtook the US as the world’s biggest electricity producer and today China’s domestic coal industry produces more primary energy than Middle Eastern oil does.