Powering a nation of 1.4 billion

GUANGZHOU, May 25 (Xinhua) — During the daytime every Monday and Thursday, workers at a hardware products plant in south China’s Guangdong Province can take a rest, and prepare for night shift.

The plant is allowed to rumble in the evening on Mondays and Thursdays, following the local government requirement to cut peak power consumption in favor of off-peak use.

Manager Li Hongzheng said orders have been increasing. “The peak shaving and valley filling has caused certain inconveniences, but so far it is manageable,” he said.

A strong economic bounce-back from the pandemic and the coming of summer have spiked power use in China, propelling governments to come up with various measures to ensure the power supply for the vast nation of 1.4 billion people.

Aerial photo taken on July 2, 2020 shows a view of the Goupitan hydropower station in Yuqing County, southwest China’s Guizhou Province. (Xinhua/Tao Liang)

According to data from China Southern Power Grid Corporation (CSG), which supplies power to five provinces in south China, as of May 21, the maximum load of the entire network reached 198.6 million kW, up 11.7 percent year on year. The cumulative power generation and reception capacity is 473.6 billion kWh, up 24.6 percent year on year.

Data from the State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC), which provides power to the other parts of China, indicated that the electricity consumption of the 27 provincial-level power grids posted positive growth from January to April, summing up to 2.019 trillion kWh, an increase of 18.6 percent year on year.

The recovering economy was the leading driver of electricity demand.

According to the provincial bureau of statistics of Guangdong, the province with the highest power consumption in China, the added value of its manufacturing industry increased by 23.7 percent year on year from January to April.

Aerial photo shows technicians of State Grid Zhejiang Electric Power Company checking power transmission lines to make sure the stable operation of local power supply in Zhoushan, east China’s Zhejiang Province, Oct. 23, 2020. (Xinhua/Xu Yu)

Rising temperatures are also straining the power grid. In Guangdong, temperature reached 35 degrees Celsius in early May, 4 degrees higher than the figure from the same period last year.

More electricity was consumed in homes, shopping malls and restaurants to keep air conditioners running. CSG estimated that for every 1-degree increase in temperature above 30 degrees Celsius, an extra 3 million kW would be needed for cooling indoors.

Off-peak power consumption has been promoted in many provinces. More than 6,500 utility users in east China’s Anhui Province were required to follow off-peak power consumption arrangements, which was expected to reduce the load by 11.5 million kW during peak hours.

Photo taken on Jan. 30, 2021 shows the No. 5 nuclear power unit in the city of Fuqing, southeast China’s Fujian Province. (Xinhua/Lin Shanchuan)

In Guangdong, 21 cities had released individual plans for orderly electricity consumption by the end of April.

Guangdong’s largest coal-fired power plant in Taishan has had all its generating units running at full capacity around the clock since May 1.

“We are increasing production by 30 percent,” said Gan Chaoqi, general manager of the plant. The additional power is traded in an innovative power spot market.

CSG is currently building a data-based power system, which connects information on power supply, grid, load and energy storage to realize highly effective and controllable power generation as well as adjustable and efficient power consumption, said Rao Hong, chief technologist of CSG.

“In simple terms, we are making the grid smarter,” Rao said.

In the meantime, China is expanding its power supply at a fast rate.

CSG arranged several hydropower stations in the south to operate at full throttle from May 1 to 21, generating an extra 120 million kWh.

In the city of Fuqing in east China’s Fujian Province, the No. 5 nuclear unit using Hualong One, a domestically designed third-generation nuclear reactor, entered operation at the end of last year.

Data showed that as of November 2020, 47 nuclear power units were built on the Chinese mainland, with another 16 approved units under construction, making China the country with the largest number of nuclear power units under construction worldwide.

Aerial photo taken on Feb. 24, 2021 shows a molten-salt solar thermal power plant in Dunhuang, northwest China’s Gansu Province. (Xinhua/Ma Xiping)

According to the National Energy Administration, China’s newly installed power capacity in 2020 reached 190.87 million kW, with more wind power and photovoltaic projects across the country.

China is forging ahead in renewable energy development amid its transition to a low-carbon economy. The country has announced that it will strive to peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.

China saw steady growth in renewable energy capacity in the first four months of the year, with the capacities of wind and solar farms reaching 290 million kW and 260 million kW, respectively, up 34.6 percent and 24.3 percent, data from the National Energy Administration showed.

In its action plan (2021-2030), CSG plans to increase the installed capacity of clean energy in five southern provinces by more than 100 million kW.

Li Weizhong, president of Guangzhou-based Topcreating, one of the world’s largest electric kettle manufacturers, believes that the peak and off-peak arrangement is only temporary.

The company saw its sales surge 60 percent in the first four months of the year, with its power use rising sharply.

“As new measures, new projects and new sources of energy continue to take effect, it’s only a matter of time before China fully charges up its economy and society,” he said.

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