The numbers are in and China has out-installed the United States to become the world’s biggest spender on energy efficiency last year. In all, China spent US$4.3 billion, or almost one-third of the global total, on smart grids, according to data compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. That compares with US$3.6 billion in the US.
Smart meters are a big component of the sector and the US news agency said China has installed 250 million of them so far, as opposed to 46 million in the US and 55 million in Europe. But is this the start of more to come or is the spending pretty much over?
Smart meters are an integral part of China’s drive to generate more renewable energy and use its power supplies more efficiently. The meters keep tabs on electricity usage and feed that data into the central information systems of power companies.
If a household has a rooftop solar panel, for example, the smart meter can keep in contact with the utility firm to help determine when the company should transmit power to cover a drop in solar energy. When the sun shines, any excess solar power can be sold back to the power firm and the billing completed automatically.
Going by the installation numbers, it would seem that most urban households already have at least one smart meter each, leaving little scope for further sales. But the picture changes beyond the urban fringe. Based on the country’s present population, there could be a need for another 250 million units if each rural household wants to install a smart meter.
State Grid Corp., the main smart-grid project runner, said it expects to plug in 60 million smart meters this year, demand that industry insiders said should mostly come from rural users.
Smart meters have an average life of around five to 10 years and China could be in for a new wave of orders when the first round of installations is completed in 2017.
China is already one of the top markets in terms of new capacity in both wind and solar energy. The country’s continued need to cut pollution and secure energy points to further expansion in new power sources and a bright future for suppliers of related equipment.
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