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Winter Olympics point way to a greener world

By Hou Liqiang Source: China Daily Updated: 2022-03-07


A worker checks the hydrogen purification plant at Sinopec Yanshan Petrochemical Co, a subsidiary of China Petroleum and Chemical Corp and a main supplier of the gas for the Winter Olympics in Beijing. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Editor's note: In a series of reports titled "Legacies of the Games", China Daily explores changes brought to the country by the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. This is the third part of the series.

As the global climate crisis looms larger, the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Beijing have set a template for the organization of green events globally.

A series of advanced low-carbon technologies used during the Winter Olympics, the first carbon-neutral Games, resulted in a legacy with far-reaching significance for the climate change process in China and farther afield.

A grid fully powered by renewable energy that met demand at all Winter Olympic venues will also potentially accelerate low-carbon transition in the Greater Beijing area. The grid, the result of regional cooperation, can be instructive for other regions as they seek a green future.

The Winter Olympics were the first Games at which all venues were supported by renewable energy. This was made possible by a flexible direct current power grid connecting Beijing with a renewable energy demonstration zone in the co-host city of Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, which boasts rich wind and solar resources.

In 2015, when the capital won the bid to host the Winter Olympics, the National Development and Reform Commission, the nation's top economic planner, approved a plan to establish the zone, pledging to generate 95 billion kilowatt hours of renewable power by 2030 for the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei cluster.

Construction started in early 2018, with the grid put into operation on July 6, 2020.

The Winter Olympics' Pre-Games Sustainability Report, which was unveiled in January, stated, "Preparations for the Games have accelerated implementation of the project, which is a flexible DC (direct current) project with the largest transmission capacity in the world."

Despite increasingly lower costs for generating renewable energy, especially solar power, the intermittent nature of such energy has long been a factor hampering application on a large scale.

However, with help from a hydropower station for pumped storage, which is the world's largest, the grid can transmit abundant clean and renewable energy to Beijing safely and efficiently, according to the report.

Pumped storage is one of the most cost-efficient ways to store renewable energy. When there is a surplus of power in the grid, water is pumped uphill. In case of rising demand, the water is released to regenerate electricity.

The Zhangjiakou-Beijing grid is estimated to transmit about 14.1 billion kWh of clean energy to the Chinese capital a year, equivalent to about 10 percent of the city's annual electricity consumption, the report added.

Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, an NGO, said: "It is a very large scale. This is the largest green legacy the Games will leave for Beijing."

He said the grid marks a very good beginning. Instead of importing electricity and exporting emissions, Beijing, with its capability and resources, has started to support other regions in addressing their emissions. Such action can be instructive for these areas in promoting climate action via regional cooperation.

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