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6 amazing facts about electricity transmission in China

Jun 11, 2011 - greenbang.com

It’s well known that China has been going gangbusters on developing its energy infrastructure, rapidly building everything from not-so-green new coal-fired power to a massive solar photovoltaics manufacturing base to large deployments of wind power. While its energy resources have been growing, though, its transmission capacity has some serious catching-up to do.

So what’s the state of electricity transmission in China? Read on:

  • Between now and 2015, the State Grid Corporation of China — China’s, and the world’s, largest electricity transmission and distribution company — expects to deploy some 337,000 kilometres (more than 209,000 miles) of 110-volt-plus power lines across the country.
  • China has become the top global market for next-generation electricity transmission lines. By next year, State Grid expects to have spent $44 billion on ultra-high voltage transmission equipment and improvements.
  • China has dramatically expanded its power generation capabilities, perhaps too much, in recent years. Transmission capacity hasn’t been able to keep up, with the result being electricity-generating facilities left idle because of high transmission costs. According to China Briefing, around 60 per cent of the country’s generating capacity can go unused. Rolling power outages to control demand are also still the norm.
  • Realising that its transmission and distribution infrastructure is in need of major upgrading, Chinese officials last year began opening the door to foreign investment in smart-grid development. China Briefing estimates the value of that sector could top 1 trillion renminbi ($154 billion).
  • Sending electricity across the grid efficiently is especially difficult in as geographically large a country as China. To combat the problem of voltage drops over long transmission distances, the country is building new systems for ultra-high voltage (UHV) electricity transmission. The State Grid Corporation of China expects to spend nearly $88 billion on UHV projects between now and 2020.
  • State Grid’s UHV projects are likely to break a host of energy industry records, including those for largest transmission capacity (a planned 7,200-megawatt capacity for the Jinping-Sunan circuit set for completion in 2012) and longest transmission distance (2,096 kilometres, or 1,302 miles, Jinping-Sunan).