Can energy storage technology accelerate China's renewable energy development?

  2016 is another year for China's renewable energy development to achieve iconic progress, but clean electricity is still facing difficulties in grid connection. For example, wind turbines in northern and western China are often idle for a long time.
In response to the above situation, Chinese policy makers have begun to explore the use of energy storage technology to enhance the grid's ability to accept wind and solar power .
However, to significantly increase the proportion of renewable energy in China's energy mix, the way China's power grid operates requires fundamental reforms. We are in doubt as to how much energy storage technology can reduce wind abandonment and ensure that renewable energy is not wasted.
Energy storage technology in China
Energy storage methods mainly include batteries, heat storage, pumped storage, etc., which is a technology that helps the grid to better integrate wind power and solar power by storing electricity when electricity demand is low and discharging when power demand is high. Energy storage technology enhances the flexibility of the power grid, ensures that renewable energy power plants continue to work, and avoids the phenomenon of abandoning wind, abandoning light and abandoning water.
China has recognized the value of energy storage technology and plans to rapidly increase its power storage capacity. On the one hand, the government is calling for an accelerated pace of construction of pumped storage facilities. The so-called pumped storage refers to an energy storage method that uses water turbines to generate electricity by storing water in a high reservoir. The 13th Five-Year Plan for Hydropower Development proposes to increase the installed capacity of pumped storage from 23 million kilowatts to 40 million kilowatts by 2020, which is about twice the capacity of existing pumped storage in the United States.
The future of global commerce
Fossil fuels are gradually giving way to renewable energy
The global energy system seems to be undergoing earth-shaking changes. The world is clearly turning to renewable energy while reducing its dependence on oil, natural gas and coal.
On the other hand, emerging energy storage technologies are also being promoted. In March 2016, China released the “Energy Technology Revolution Innovation Action Plan (2016-2030)”, which proposed deepening research on advanced energy storage technologies for renewable energy grid-connected, microgrid, and electric vehicle applications.
The demonstration project is already in progress. In April 2016, the Dalian Energy Storage Power Station project was approved by the National Energy Administration. The 200,000 kW all-vanadium liquid energy storage project undertaken by Chinese battery manufacturer Dalian Rongke will be completed in 2018. By then, the project will triple China's grid-connected energy storage capacity on a current basis. The government planning department hopes that the system can help solve the problem of wind curtailment in the Northeast and provide backup energy and other services to the grid.
Encourage private investment
China has also introduced a new pilot mechanism to encourage private capital to participate in investment in energy storage projects. Previously, there were very few channels for energy storage battery companies to achieve commercial success, either to develop small-scale demonstration projects or to set up locations in high-priced areas such as remote areas and islands.
However, in June 2016, the National Energy Administration (NEA) announced that it will pilot the power-assisted service compensation mechanism in the Sanbei area, where the wind and light abandonment phenomenon is the most serious, and provide financial support for the peaking and frequency-adjusting auxiliary services provided by energy storage service providers.
This mechanism draws on the compensation mechanism adopted by the current peaking services for coal-fired power plants. In northern China, coal-fired power generation is used during the day, while heating is provided to the heating pipe network. But unfortunately, coal-fired power plants can't be easily started or stopped, and they must be kept running at night, even if they are no longer needed. Although thermal power is less efficient, it is still the wind farm that is required to limit electricity.
At present, the government will compensate coal-fired power plants whose power generation capacity is below a certain level. The difference between the new compensation mechanisms is that instead of compensating for the coal-fired power plants that cut production, they spend money to encourage energy storage service providers to absorb excess electricity. In this way, not only can the number of coal-fired power plants that are continuously operated reduced, but also the power generation efficiency of the operating coal-fired power plants can be increased, winds can be reduced, and grid resources can be saved.
As China's energy industry is still in a transitional stage, it is still unclear whether the power storage compensation mechanism will undergo further changes in the future. Nevertheless, this mechanism clearly shows that policy makers are ready to promote the use of advanced energy storage technologies.
  Transforming the grid
Energy storage technology can greatly accelerate the pace of grid connection of renewable energy. However, in the case of low overall occupancy of wind and solar energy, reducing wind and abandoning electricity is not a priority. On the contrary, optimizing grid operation is the key to promoting the integration of photovoltaic and wind power. According to a study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, wind power can account for more than 20% of US energy, without serious abandonment or large-scale storage. In contrast, China National Energy Administration data shows that China's wind power accounted for only 4% in 2016, but wind power in Jilin, Xinjiang, Gansu and other wind power provinces last year were as high as 30%, 38% and 43% respectively. .
China's abandonment of wind and light is largely due to the institutional problems of China's energy industry planning and operation. At present, many common practices in China's power grid still emphasize coal as part of the planned economy, and do not actively adapt to the needs of the increasingly diversified energy industry.
This approach often protects coal-fired power generation at the expense of renewable energy generation, resulting in a mismatch between wind power generation and transmission planning, resulting in wind power plants in western China that can only be idle after the construction of transmission lines. Deliver electricity to the power demand center in eastern China. China's power distribution methods have also caused the provincial power grids to be independent, unable to flexibly balance the power supply and demand between the provinces. At present, the national policy encourages provincial governments to absorb electricity in the province to support their respective taxes, and to protect the interests of local thermal power companies, and to oppose the introduction of wind power from provinces with abundant wind energy.
To achieve the goal of air quality and carbon emissions, China must first address these institutional barriers that hinder the integration of clean energy. But policymakers have found that the reforms needed to reduce the phenomenon of abandoning wind and light are not easy to implement. Although China launched a new round of energy industry reforms in 2015, measures such as optimizing energy transmission and distribution based on marginal cost to increase renewable energy utilization are still difficult.
Energy storage technology may be an attractive solution to the problem of abandoning wind and light, especially as new energy storage technologies continue to fall in price. But given the existing power system issues, the technology is still just one of the many tools that help decision makers expand the grid of renewable energy.
  Market obstacles are still
But to make a real difference, it is necessary to send a correct investment signal to the developers of energy storage facilities and reform the market.
Although the state has introduced a new energy storage service compensation mechanism for the northern region, industry observers believe that the lack of China's electricity spot market has hindered the promotion of energy storage technology.

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