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Powering a Better Life and a Beautiful China

By Xin Baoan Source: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2022-10-28

Energy is the cornerstone of economic development and the lifeblood of modern society, and a power grid is an essential infrastructure for the conversion and utilization, optimal allocation, and management of supply and demand of energy. As a super-large state-owned enterprise of key importance to national energy security and the national economy, State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) endeavors to play its role as a promoter, pioneer, and leader of the shift toward clean and low-carbon energy to power a better life and a Beautiful China.

I. Achievements in moving toward clean and low-carbon energy

President Xi Jinping has stated that the development of low-carbon energy bears upon the future of humankind. Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 2012, China has staunchly supported the energy revolution, making historic achievements in the shift toward clean and low-carbon energy as well as solid progress in the high-quality development of energy sources.

We have continuously optimized the structure of energy consumption.

Since the 18th CPC National Congress, China's energy utilization efficiency has improved, with average annual energy consumption growth of approximately 3% supporting average annual national economic growth of approximately 6.5%. The main shift in the energy structure has been toward clean and low-carbon energy sources. As the proportion of the energy structure accounted for by clean energy sources has continued to rise, those of coal and other fossil fuels have declined. By the end of 2021, coal accounted for just 56% of total energy consumption, while clean energy consumption had reached 25.5%. The transformation toward low-carbon and energy-saving production has advanced, electric vehicle charging infrastructure and the charging network have improved, and the proportion of electricity in end-use energy consumption has increased. There has been a sustained and rapid increase in new-energy vehicles, reaching 7.84 million. The number of charging points has exceeded 2.6 million, giving China the largest charging network in the world. The area of northern China heated using clean energy sources has reached approximately 15.6 billion m², or around 73.6% of the total.


The Hami section of the Zhundong-Anhui South UHV direct-current transmission project in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Designed and developed in China, the project leads the world in terms of voltage level, transmission capacity, and transmission distance. PROVIDED BY THE PUBLICITY DEPARTMENT OF THE CPC LEADERSHIP GROUP OF THE STATE GRID CORPORATION OF CHINA

China has boosted its ability to guarantee energy supplies.

Already the world's largest energy producer, China has been improving its energy security. Its energy structure consists of coal, oil, gas, electricity, nuclear, new energy, and renewable energy, and its energy transmission network continues to improve. China has consolidated the foundations for guaranteeing its power supply, constantly expanded its installed capacity and power generation, and intensified renewable energy exploitation and utilization. As a result, by the end of 2021, China's crude oil production had rebounded for three consecutive years; natural gas production recorded annual increases above 10 billion m3 for five consecutive years; installed power capacity and power generation increased to 2.38 billion kilowatts and 8.4 trillion kilowatt-hours, respectively; installed capacity of renewable energy power generation exceeded 1 billion kilowatts; and the installed capacity of hydropower, wind power, and solar photovoltaic (PV) power each exceeded 300 million kilowatts, which is the highest in the world. Furthermore, it is currently accelerating the construction of large wind and solar power bases in deserts, and boasts the highest installed capacity of pumped storage hydropower in the world.


The national wind and solar energy storage and transmission demo project in Zhangbei, Hebei Province. It is the world's largest new energy demo power station, integrating wind and photovoltaic power generation, energy storage, and intelligent transmission systems. Through this project, the State Grid has completed the world's first grid-based performance test for a high-ratio new energy system. PROVIDED BY THE PUBLICITY DEPARTMENT OF THE CPC LEADERSHIP GROUP OF THE STATE GRID CORPORATION OF CHINA

China has accelerated technological innovations and the cultivation of industries in the energy sector.

China is leveraging the advantages of the new nationwide mobilization system for making key technological breakthroughs, and various concerned sectors of society are making concerted efforts to elevate energy technology innovation to a new level. The country is developing the world's largest clean coal system, with world-class levels of indicators such as air pollutant emissions. It has made breakthroughs in technologies such as deep-water drilling and shale gas exploration and development, which are helping to increase oil and gas output and reserves. China has advanced and demonstrated applications of innovations in the areas of nuclear power, renewable energy, clean and efficient utilization of coal, and gas turbines. It has continued to lead the way in key core technologies, such as ultrahigh voltage (UHV) power transmission, flexible direct current transmission, main power grid security, and grid-connected consumption of new energy sources. It has also connected to our power grid the world's first commercial nuclear power plant with a high-temperature gas-cooled reactor and made significant progress in the construction of the CAP1400 nuclear reactor. Furthermore, new energy formats, such as Internet Plus smart energy, are booming, becoming an area of competitive innovation in China.

II. New circumstances and requirements in the shift to clean and low-carbon energy

We are dealing with the greatest changes and the most serious pandemic in a century. Meanwhile economic globalization is being buffeted by headwinds and the world is experiencing a new period of turbulent transformation. A new round of technological revolution and industrial transformation is in progress, and a new phase in the global response to climate change is emerging. Accelerating the shift to clean and low-carbon energy is essential to safeguard our national energy security and ensure we achieve peak carbon and carbon neutrality on schedule. It is also a necessity to promote high-quality development of our energy sector and quickly become a global energy leader for China. This requires systemic and fundamental changes to the energy system, which poses new opportunities and challenges.

Profound adjustments will be made to the energy structure.

We will develop and utilize clean and low-carbon energy on a huge scale to gradually replace the role of traditional fossil fuels as the linchpin of China's energy system. The proportion of China's primary energy consumption accounted for by non-fossil fuels is predicted to increase from 16% in 2020 to 25% in 2030 and 80% by 2060, and the future energy development will be characterized by a combination of centralized and distributed energy resources.

Energy utilization will be complex and diverse.

Electric energy utilization is expanding into many new areas. New modes and services are emerging, such as electric vehicles, data centers, and energy efficiency services. Multi-energy complementarity and flexible conversion between electricity, gas, cold, thermal, hydrogen, and other energy types are expanding. A change in end-use energy sources, particularly to electricity, is becoming the mainstream. And energy utilization methods are increasingly diversified, personalized, integrated, and interactive.

Scientific and technological innovations in the energy sector will accelerate integrated development.

New technologies and equipment for new energy development, multi-energy conversion, advanced energy storage, carbon capture, utilization and storage, and energy system controls are emerging one after another. In-depth integration of digital and energy technologies is progressing, and the energy system is becoming smarter and more open, efficient, and consumer-friendly.

The energy sector will develop rapidly.

Many dynamic new market entities have entered the sector and traditional energy companies are racing to transform themselves, which has given rise to a raft of new services as well as new forms and models of business, such as integrated energy services, energy big data, platform businesses, and energy aggregators. The industrial chain and ecology of the energy sector is changing profoundly, creating a new energy ecosystem.

Electricity is a clean, efficient, and convenient secondary energy, and it is central to the shift toward clean and low-carbon energy. The main way to develop and utilize new energy resources is to generate electricity from them, and electricity is the natural choice for replacing fossil fuels; therefore, electricity is an advantageous area for promoting technological innovation and industrial development. With the acceleration of the process to reach peak carbon and carbon neutrality as well as the in-depth advancement of the shift to clean and low-carbon energy, our traditional electricity system is evolving into one that is clean and low-carbon, safe and controllable, flexible and efficient, open and interactive, and intelligent and consumer-friendly. Its basic technologies, operating mechanisms, and functions are undergoing profound changes, and there are unprecedented pressures to reform and upgrade the system.

In terms of the supply side, clean energy will gradually dominate installed capacity and electricity generation.

To promote the shift toward clean and low-carbon energy, it is vital that we accelerate the development of non-fossil energy sources, especially wind and solar power. About 95% of China's non-fossil energy is used by converting it into electricity. It is estimated that the installed capacity of electricity generation from new energy sources, such as wind power and solar power, will surpass that of coal power by 2030 in China, and more than 50% of China's electricity is expected to be generated from new energy sources by 2060.

End-use energy consumption will shift toward electricity, and electricity "prosumers" will increase.

It is estimated that electricity will account for 39% of China's end-use energy consumption by 2030 and 70% by 2060. With the rapid development of diversified electricity loads and energy storage, many electricity users will become prosumers (both producers and consumers), which will profoundly alter the relationship between electricity production and consumption.

The power grid will develop toward a main grid that coexists with various other power grids.

The hybrid AC-DC grid will continue to be the main way of optimally allocating energy resources, but microgrids, distributed energy, energy storage, and local DC grids that can interoperate and coordinate with the main grid are developing rapidly. This structure can support the efficient exploitation and utilization of various new energy sources and consumer-friendly access to various loads.

The operational mechanisms and energy mix in the energy system will change drastically.

As conventional power sources are replaced by new energy and adjustable loads become more widespread, the high proportions of renewable energy and electronic equipment in the power system will increase notably. As a result, the objective of the electricity system will gradually evolve from the real-time balance of sources and loads to the partial real-time balance of coordinated interactions between sources, networks, loads, and storage.


The upper reservoir at the Yixing Pumped Storage Hydropower Station, Jiangsu Province. China leads the world in installed capacity of pumped storage hydropower. By the end of 2021, the scale of such stations in operation and under construction within the State Grid's area of operations reached 26.31 million kilowatts and 46.43 million kilowatts, respectively. PROVIDED BY THE PUBLICITY DEPARTMENT OF THE CPC LEADERSHIP GROUP OF THE STATE GRID CORPORATION OF CHINA

III. Developing a new type of electricity system to accelerate the shift to clean and low-carbon energy

A new electricity system is an essential element of a clean, low-carbon, safe, and efficient modern energy system. Developing a new electric power system is a major plan of the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping at its core in order to build an ecological civilization, safeguard our national energy security, and achieve sustainable development. It is vital for the transition toward electricity in China's energy system and the realization of our peak carbon and carbon neutrality goals, and it is a Chinese solution to the global issue of the sustainable development of electricity generation.

We must adapt to platform-based energy allocations and innovative grid development.

As a major manufacturing country, China must be self-sufficient in energy to develop its real economy. There is a fundamental disconnect in China's energy resource and demand pattern, however, as energy resource bases in the west of the country are located thousands of kilometers from central and eastern load centers. SGCC is constantly improving its core network and accelerating the development of the power grid at all levels. We are coordinating efforts on both the supply and demand sides, encouraging the development of new energy sources, and promoting the orderly replacement of fossil fuels with clean energy. A total of 29 stable, secure, and reliable UHV power transmission projects have been built, with the power transmission distance reaching 3,300 kilometers and cross-regional and cross-provincial power transmission capacity exceeding 240 million kilowatts, giving our power grid the longest power transmission distance and strongest energy allocation capabilities in the world. We firmly shoulder the responsibility of guaranteeing the supply of electricity in China, ensure the security of our main power grid, and regard protecting the people's wellbeing as the top priority in our efforts to safeguard power supply. We also play a notable role during times of crisis, especially in disaster relief and the containment of Covid-19.

During the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025), we will invest 2.4 trillion yuan in the power grid and promote new systems of energy supply and grid-connected consumption. We will continue to improve UHV and electricity network infrastructure at all levels, assist with the construction of large-scale wind and solar PV bases in deserts, and support and promote the intensive development and long-distance delivery of large power bases. We will rapidly develop a modern smart power distribution network, promote microgrids and distributed energy resources, and ensure convenient and immediate access to various power facilities. We will strive to reach 300 million kilowatts of inter-provincial and inter-regional power transmission capacity within our company's operating area by 2025 and 370 million kilowatts by 2030, as well as aim for clean energy sources to account for more than 50% of transmitted electricity.

We must adapt to the rapid switch to cleaner energy production by increasing our exploitation and utilization of new energy sources.

After the CPC Central Committee proposed the objectives of reaching peak carbon emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060, the State Grid immediately studied the decision and made the necessary arrangements, issuing an action plan and a series of practical measures. Power generation from new energy sources is affected by climatic and environmental factors, such as the common conditions of excessive heat with insufficient wind and excessive cold with insufficient light, which cause uneven power output. As a result, it is necessary to combine various resources to ensure system flexibility and adaptability. SGCC is striving to develop pumped storage hydropower plants to improve our ability to regulate the energy system. By the end of 2021, pumped storage hydropower plants in operation and under construction within SGCC's operational area reached 26.31 million kilowatts and 46.43 million kilowatts, respectively. Using complementary wind, solar PV and hydro power systems in conjunction with the main grid, Qinghai Province achieved a world record of relying solely on clean energy sources for its electricity supply for 31 days consecutively. By the end of 2021, the installed capacity of new energy sources within the SGCC's operational area reached 540 million kilowatts, with a utilization rate of 97.4%, giving China's power grid the largest installed capacity of new energy sources in the world.

We must adapt to increasing electricity use in the energy consumption structure and promote energy conservation and reduced consumption to meet our diverse energy requirements.

The level of electrification of a modern civilization is indicative of its development, and increasing electrification on the consumption side of the energy system is vital for the optimization of the consumption structure. SGCC is promoting the steady and orderly replacement of traditional energy sources with electricity based on local conditions, encouraging the use of electricity instead of coal for clean heating in northern China, and carrying out electric energy replacement projects, such as all-electric scenic spots, all-electric shipping, and electrification of highways and railways. We have replaced a total of 867.7 billion kilowatt-hours with electricity, which is equivalent to a reduction of 480 million tons of scattered coal consumption and 870 million tons of carbon dioxide. We have also accelerated the construction of an electrical charging infrastructure along a network of ten east-west, ten north-south, and two circular expressways to address concerns over the range of electric vehicles for long-distance travel.

We must adapt to innovations in the field of energy and create a base of technological innovation.

SGCC is committed to innovation-driven development to overcome global power grid issues, and we have made a number of world-leading achievements with independent intellectual property rights. We have won a total of 91 national science and technology awards and were among the first batch of companies to be selected as sources of original technology by the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission. We have worked with more than 30 key enterprises, renowned universities, and social groups to establish a new electricity system technological innovation alliance that brings electrical power systems.

We must adapt to the ongoing digitization of energy business formats and develop the energy Internet.

SGCC has built the world's largest cloud platform for new energy, providing one-stop services for planning and development, grid-connected consumption, and transaction settlement in the field of new energy, which is connected to more than 2.83 million wind and solar PV hybrid power stations. We have developed a smart vehicle networking platform with the most expansive coverage and largest number of charging points in the world that coordinates development between vehicles, charging points, and the electricity distribution network. The network includes more than 1.7 million charging points and provides convenient and smart battery charging and swapping services for the environmentally friendly travel of 11 million users, which has helped to develop the electric vehicle industry in China. Online platforms, such as State Grid Online and the State Grid New Energy Cloud, offer one-stop services covering the whole process of domestic solar PV energy station installation and on-grid settlement, which have improved customer service capabilities and led to a dispersed solar PV energy service ecosystem.

Xin Baoan is Chairman of the State Grid Corporation of China and Secretary of its CPC Leadership Group as well as Chairman of the China Electricity Council.

(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 15, 2022)