China Achieves 7.2-GW New Solar Capacity Milestone in 1Q17

China has installed 7.21 GW of new solar capacity in the first quarter of 2017, achieving another renewable energy milestone with growth maintaining the same pace as during 1Q16. Of that total, 4.78 GW came from utility-scale solar, with the remaining 2.43 GW originating from distributed solar PV, bringing the country’s cumulative solar PV capacity up to almost 85 GW. The country generated 21.4 billion kWh of electricity during the quarter, up 80 percent over the same period of a year earlier, according to statistics from China’s National Energy Administration (NEA).

The lion’s share of new solar PV capacity was located in the central and eastern regions of the country, accounting for 6.39 GW or 89 percent of the total new capacity added. China’s key PV market is gradually transitioning from the country’s western and northern interior to the center and along the eastern coast, with the 2.43 GW of new distributed solar PV overwhelmingly located in just four provinces: Zhejiang, Shandong, Anhui and Jiangsu.

However, curtailment issues continued to plague various regions during the quarter. While abandonment figures for Ningxia and Gansu dropped by 10 percent and 19 percent respectively, Qinghai, Shaanxi, and Inner Mongolia all saw time outs due to a curtailment increase of 9 percent, 11 percent, and 8 percent respectively, with the amount of time that Xinjiang’s wind plants sat idle remaining at an astronomically high 39 percent.

Following an in-depth analysis of the industry and the leading industry players, the China National Renewable Energy Centre predicted the country’s newly-added installed solar capacity for the first half of the year would reach 24 GW, including roughly 17 GW from utility-scale solar. The remaining 7 GW came from distributed solar PV, nearly three times what was added during the same period in 2016. During the second half of the year, the distributed solar PV sector is expected to maintain rapid growth, with anticipated newly added installed capacity reaching more than 7 GW, driven by the country’s favorable policies to drive development of the sector. For the full year of 2017, the country’s total newly added installed solar capacity has a good chance of exceeding 40 GW, the center predicted.

But ambitious targets do not necessarily translate into results. To achieve those goals, China would need to overcome chronic problems in its energy sector. The sector remained hobbled by severe overcapacity. Slowing demand for electricity due to the economic downturn and the slashing of energy intensive industries has caused widespread under-utilization of existing power generation capacities, which are seeing their lowest utilization hours since 1978. Yet, consolidation and restructuring across China’s solar PV sector is expected to lead to stability in terms of the sector’s further development.

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Nanjing Shanglong Communications Liu Yuanyuan is Director of Operations and Co-Founder of Nanjing Shanglong Communications. Liu Yuanyuan previously held the position of office manager at the London Financial Times' China translation and editorial bureau in Nanjing overseeing 33 translators, editors and IT support personnel. Ms. Liu brought her many years experience of delivering, under deadline, more than 200 English-language news summaries of articles selected from Chinese-language newspapers and newswires daily as well as supervising the timely completion of 500,000+ word English-to-Chinese translation and localization projects to her role as co-founder and general manager at Shanglong. Ms. Liu joined Shanglong in 2002. In 2006, she added China Business News Service to the product suite – the service provides a continuous flow of well-researched and documented news articles to trade publishers and industry-specific websites looking to supplement their content with the latest news from China in their sector. She manages Shanglong's staff of translators, editors, desktop publishing specialists and support staff, selected from the top universities across China and well versed in the art of translation and in the technology of DTP. Ms. Liu graduated from the People’s Liberation Army Institute of International Relations - China’s elite military academy responsible for the training of the country’s foreign language specialists.

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