BEIJING, July 7 (Reuters) - China has started operating another multibillion-dollar ultra-high voltage (UHV) power line, connecting its second-largest hydropower plant in the landlocked west to a province on the east coast, the official China Energy News reported on Monday.
The world’s No. 2 economy has struggled to expand its grid to keep up with growing power demand, with most of its new energy supplies in the far west, while demand is in the east and south.
State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC), the world’s biggest utility and a pioneer of UHV technology, plans to spend 620 billion yuan ($100 billion) by 2017 on 20 UHV lines in China, a company executive said last August.
The project has been controversial with critics arguing SGCC is betting too much on costly and untested technology that could expose the system to blackouts. The firm has said that UHV lines are reliable and designed to prevent outages.
The latest UHV line spans five provinces -- Sichuan, Guizhou, Hunan, Jiangxi and Zhejiang -- and cost about 19.7 billion yuan ($3.2 billion).
It will be part of a UHV complex that will ship about 40 billion kilowatt hours of electricity a year from the hydropower-rich southwestern regions to eastern consuming hubs, China Energy News said.
That would be equivalent to conserving 12.28 million tonnes of standard coal and reducing carbon dioxide emissions of 34 million tonnes every year.
The third such project run by SGCC, a 1,653-kilometre line that starts in the southwestern province of Sichuan and ends in Zhejiang, started operating last week, the paper said.
That coincided with the start of full operations at the Xiluodu hydropower station, the country’s second largest in terms of capacity.
The UHV lines would allow China to build power plants near coal mines or gas fields before sending electricity rather than coal across country. This would free up rail capacity and could reduce the need for coal and gas imports.
Reporting by Chen Aizhu; Editing by Joseph Radford