Chinese Province Highlighted for Wind Power Potential

New research by Garrad Hassan and Partners Ltd. (GH) for Greenpeace shows the Guangdong region in China as one that could support a thriving wind energy sector that could bring not only a significant share of the growing global market in wind energy, but also a solution to burgeoning energy demand and local and global pollution problems.

The Province of Guangdong, part of South East China’s economic hub, typifies China’s enormous potential for this win-win-win energy future. Centered on the Pear River Delta, and drawing on links with Hong Kong, Guangdong is the most populous province in China, has the highest energy consumption and the highest GDP. At the same time, the Pearl River Delta region experiences one of the highest concentrations of carbon dioxide in the country. Extreme weather conditions are increasing in frequency and severity leading to alternate droughts, typhoons, rainstorms, heat waves and a prevailing sea level rise. Approximately three quarters of Guangdong’s generated electricity derives from a coal-fired thermal plant. Ninety percent of Guangdong’s coal supply depends on other provinces, with large volumes of coal being imported by rail and sea. The province is subject to regular summer blackouts as the shortfall widens between energy demand and supply. Responding to national government decrees, the Guangdong government has been a strong proponent of wind energy, implementing its own provincial policy in support of growth in installed capacity. Most recently, Guangdong Province has issued future plans for wind energy that exceed the central government’s initial expectations for the province. Guangdong currently contributes 86 MW of China’s 764 MW installed by the end of 2004. It is expected that by the end of 2005, the national installed capacity will exceed 1000 MW, with some of this increase in Guangdong. The China-wide potential is estimated at 253 GW onshore and 750 GW offshore. Installed capacity is currently less than 0.1 percent of this estimated potential. In terms of cumulative MW installed, the USA ranks third in the world after Germany and Spain. China ranks tenth in the world just behind the UK. As a percentage of current total installed power capacity, China, the UK and the U.S. are less than 1 percent. In contrast, Spain and Germany have relatively high levels of wind energy penetration — between 14 and 18 percent of installed capacity. In both cases, turbines are made locally, which has contributed to each country’s success. The experience in Germany and Spain can be attributed directly to their incentive schemes and associated policies. Wind energy very clearly has a far greater potential than its current exploitation would suggest. China is far from alone in its current levels of exploitation, but stands out in terms of the sheer size of potential — both in terms of resource and demand for power. China is predicted to supersede the U.S. in carbon emissions by 2025 and thus the benefits of a switch to clean power production will be felt not only in China but worldwide. New Asian players in the wind energy market will bring a new shape to the industry not previously seen. In July 2005, President Hu Jintao, addressing a meeting of the Communist Party’s Political Bureau, said, “We should strive to build a technology-intensive, cost- effective and low polluting country.” He went on to say that China should promote economic growth through the development of advanced technologies while moving away from high consumption, high pollution and low efficiency industries, and called for more recycling and the use of clean energy such as natural gas, wind and solar energy to replace petroleum and coal. Government is elucidating its aspirations for wind energy through a new renewable energy law, and is demonstrating renewed vigor in chasing its goals for a wind energy industry, prime amongst which is a domestic manufacturing industry. These new policy aspirations are being followed through in decrees and local government policies, making it timely to consider bold but realistic objectives. The report, “Wind Guangdong,” observes that wind energy can be readily indigenized, built rapidly to meet growing demand and at a cost which in Europe and the U.S. is comparable to a new coal-fired and nuclear plant and, when cost externalities are attributed to conventional power, is far cheaper to society than conventional energy options. “Wind Guangdong” shows that the province possesses a wind resource comparable in intensity to that of Germany, the world’s largest wind energy market. Industry in Guangdong and throughout China has the skills and experience necessary to service a thriving wind industry. The report also showcases some companies and institutions already active in the sector. In fact, the level of industrial activity in China is impressive when compared to that supported by similar levels of capacity in other countries.
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