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Unprecedented Pressures to Reform and Upgrade Electricity System

By Qiu Ping Source: Updated: 2023-07-21

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.