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China Working to Cut Idled Wind Farm Capacity

China, the world's biggest carbon emitter, is making progress in connecting idled wind farms to the electricity grid, helping to address a roadblock slowing the development of wind power.

"The issue is in the process of improvement, given the efforts made by grid companies," Jiang Liping, vice president of the State Grid Energy Research Institute, said in a phone interview on Jan. 10, without disclosing the connection rate.

The adoption of wind power in China has been damped by the electricity grid's ability to handle the influx of energy, forcing the government to impose stricter approvals on new projects. The rate of wind capacity sitting idle could fall to as low as 10 percent this year, compared with 25 percent at the end of 2011, Jun Ying, Bloomberg New Energy Finance's head of research in China, said by e-mail.

"It's the lack of economic incentives that discourage grid companies to take in more renewable power," said Beijing-based Ying. "It means extra work and costs, but no extra benefits for grid companies to do so."

China this year plans to add 49 gigawatts of renewable- energy capacity, including hydro power, to boost power production without increasing its reliance on fossil fuels, the National Energy Administration said in a statement on its website earlier this week. Installed capacity totaled about 39 gigawatts in 2012, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Wind Power Growth

China probably added 16.4 gigawatts of wind power last year, 20 percent less than the previous year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. This year, wind installations may grow by 16.3 gigawatts, NEF forecasts. That compares with China's goal of adding 18 gigawatts of wind generation and 10 gigawatts of solar in 2013, according to the NEA's Jan. 8 statement.

The wind-power target is larger than Bloomberg New Energy Finance's forecast because the projects referred to by the government aren't necessarily built and connected in the same year, Ying said.

The solar goal for 2013 "is much higher than our forecast ranging from 3.9 to 7.3 gigawatts, indicating the strong determination from the government to boost the domestic photovoltaic market to support its manufacturers," Ying said in the e-mail.

The New York-traded shares of Suntech Power Holdings Co., the world's biggest solar-panel maker, fell 31 percent in 2012 while Trina Solar Ltd., which also trades in New York, declined 35 percent in the same period. Suntech has gained 20 percent since Jan. 8 when China announced its targets for renewable energy this year; Trina is up 22 percent.

"The market will likely take up more slowly than the government expects, due to electricity trading restrictions, grid connection barriers, lack of eligible rooftops and project quality issues," Bloomberg New Energy Finance's Ying wrote, referring to China's solar capacity.

Copyright 2013 Bloomberg

Lead image: Windmills in the sunset in western China, via shutterstock

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