China’s power crunch sparks tension ahead of major UN climate summit
Renewable energy in inland China sometimes generates more electricity than nearby consumers, but then produces much less at other times. Just five years ago, three inland regions that generate abundant solar and wind power power – sparsely populated Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang and Gansu – were wasting two-fifths of that power.
To address this problem, China has built ultra-high-voltage transmission lines connecting the country’s interior to hubs near the coast. But there is still a way for connectivity. “The new demand can be met from clean sources of energy” if the transmission network is expanded, Ms Lewis said.
Beijing is also trying to use market forces to expand renewable energy. The Chinese government has ordered power utilities to charge industrial and commercial customers five times more when electricity is scarce, and mainly generated from coal, when renewable energy is filling the grid.
Regardless of Beijing’s objectives, provincial governments have other ideas.
“There’s a tug of war going on right now,” said Kelly Sims Gallagher, a professor at Tufts University’s Fletcher School who studies China’s climate policies. “The central government is trying to limit coal production, and the local governments are doing the opposite. They want to restart plants or build new ones to get their local economies moving again after the pandemic. “
Song Haven, a bicycle mechanic who works and lives near a new gas-fired power plant being built on the northern edge of Dongguan, said he certainly doesn’t miss the coal plant. “Clothes get dirty if you hang them outside, white cars get dirty after parking here for a while,” he said.
After that experience, Mr. Song is not enthusiastic about power plants in general. But if a new power plant doesn’t replace the coal-burning plant, he fears, China’s four decades of rapid economic growth could end. “Without electricity,” he said, “life would return to the seventies.”
Keith Bradsher Reported from Dongguan, China, and Lisa Friedman Reported from Washington. Lee you Contributed to research.
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