China launches new alert system to tame wind power investments

Wind turbines and solar panels are seen at a wind and solar energy storage and transmission power station from State Grid Corporation of China, in Zhangjiakou of Hebei province, China, in this March 18, 2016 file picture. REUTERS/Jason Lee/Files

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has launched a risk alerting system to prevent further investments in wind power generation in certain locations, after large amounts of power were wasted due to inadequate power transmission infrastructure.

The National Energy Administration (NEA) has given a red alert, or the highest warning, to five provinces where new construction approvals and access to grid connections will be put on hold, according to an official statement published on Thursday.

Among the restricted regions are Jilin and Heilongjiang in northeast China, along with Gansu, Ningxia and Xinjiang province in western China, all with high concentration of wind farms but only limited grid connectivity.

The world’s top wind power user has seen a surge in new installations in the last decade, with 136 gigawatts of installed capacity as of May. Wind generation capacity increased by 32 percent during January to May against the same period last year, official data shows.

However, a national average of 26 percent of wind power generated in the first quarter of 2016 was wasted. Jilin, Gansu and Xinjiang provinces were the worst offenders with about half of their wind power generation wasted while Ningxia and Heilongjiang lost a little more than one-third of their wind power, according to the NEA.

“We estimate that over the course of the first six months, 4.2 billion kilowatt hours of wind and solar power has been wasted, which is equivalent to New Zealand’s electricity use in the whole year of 2015,” said Peng Peng, an analyst with the Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association.

The new three-tier warning system distinguishes the risk levels by green, orange and red. The NEA said it would release the results annually and that offshore wind power generation will not be included.

“For regions whose average wind power generation operation hours fell below the minimum requirements of the previous year, they will be given red alerts,” said the NEA.

Regions with transmission curtailments higher than 20 percent of the previous year will also receive orange or red alerts, and will not receive approvals to construct any new installations, said the NEA.

Reporting By Kathy Chen; Editing by Gavin Maguire and Christian Schmollinger