Date
28 March 2017
Excessive capacity of mega wind farms in Gansu, such as the Jiuquan project, has led to widespread curtailment and a sharp decline in usage in recent years. Photo: quora.com
Excessive capacity of mega wind farms in Gansu, such as the Jiuquan project, has led to widespread curtailment and a sharp decline in usage in recent years. Photo: quora.com

China’s renewable energy glut

Nearly half of the wind turbines installed in Gansu province in northwestern China had to be shut down in the first quarter this year, or curtailed in wind farm jargon, up from 39 percent last year.

On solar energy projects, similar moves are taking place.

Gansu has the most installed solar power in China and ranks No. 3 in wind power capacity, according to Caixin magazine.

Gansu is hardly a standalone case.

China’s aggressive, hasty move to expand its renewable energy industry is well intentioned but ill-timed.

Economic growth has been faltering and the country is trying to steer toward a less resource-dependent growth model, resulting in a much slower rise in power demand.

But in recent years, power companies have been expanding rapidly, thus the glut in power of many sorts, including renewable energy.

Policy support is there.

Local authorities are supposed to absorb a minimum quota of renewable energy, for instance, but actual implementation usually falls short.

Last year, amid a lackluster economy, Gansu’s power consumption shrank 8.5 percent but its wind power capacity expanded 60 percent while solar energy capacity jumped 300 percent.

So why the rush to build more wind farms and solar power plants when there is no market for them?

Local governments are keen on renewable energy projects because that can attract equipment makers to set up factories there, which in turn creates jobs and provides tax revenue.

The Gansu local government is said to have given the green light to more projects on top of what has been approved by the National Energy Administration in its pursuit of quick profit.

As supply far outstrips demand, Gansu and other provinces in the same situation may find themselves stuck with excess renewable energy for years to come.

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RT/RA

EJ Insight writer

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