Editorial - VGB PowerTech Journal 7/2017

Flexible coal fired power plants – Experiences from Germany appreciated in China

With some 1.4 billion people, China is the most populous country and with a rapidly growing economy China is now also the world’s largest energy consumer and producer. China’s influence on global energy markets is also growing.

The creation of a secure, affordable and environmentally friendly energy supply is a clear objective of the Chinese Government with various challenges. By the year 2040, China’s energy consumption will double again due to the economic and population increase. At that time China´s energy demand will account for about a quarter of the global energy demand – today it is about 23 %. As the world’s largest energy consumer, especially of crude oil and coal, China’s influence will continue to increase on all future issues of global energy supply and will also be decisive for the global CO2 emissions. But the country is also an important pioneer in the expansion of renewable energies in terms of speed and scope. In addition, with the advancing urbanisation, China has a pioneering role in the digitalisation of the energy industry and other areas.

China’s present energy supply is based on almost 63 % coal, 20 % on liquid fuels – mainly crude oil – 8 % hydropower, 5 % natural gas and about 2 % renewables as well as 1 % nuclear power. In electricity generation, both the share of renewables and nuclear energy have risen markedly in recent years. In 2016 the 1,646 MW power production capacities in China supplied the consumers with approximately 5,920 TWh. 66 % were generated in coal-fired power stations, another 8 % in other thermal power plants. The renewables achieved a total share of 23 %, with hydropower alone accounting for 20 %. Nuclear energy increased its share to about 3 % with the ongoing new build programme. 34 GW of photovoltaic capacities were installed in China in 2016 and the wind energy capacity grew by 18 GW. But also new coal-fired capacities were connected to the grid with an amount of 48 GW.

China’s targets for the expansion of renewable energies are ambitious. The share of renewables in primary energy consumption should be raised from 13.5 % to 20 % by 2020. With a total installed electricity production capacity of 1,646 MW already installed, the increase in capacity in the power sector is gigantic. With this programme, the topic of flexibilisation is gaining in importance for classical electricity production based on fossil fuels. This topic is also of importance for the Chinese-German Energy Partnership. The exchange of German experiences and approaches with the Chinese colleagues is one main subject.

In this context a workshop took place in Beijing in June 2017 with the title “Technical Solutions for the Flexibilisation of Coal-Fired Power Plants – Experiences from Germany”. It was jointly organised by the Chinese Electric Power Planning & Engineering Institute (EPPEI) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. In addition to VGB PowerTech, representatives from German utilities and manufactures presented experiences and results with the flexibilisation in electricity production. The central message conveyed by the speakers was that the implementation of measures to make plants more flexible is less of a technical challenge than it is a commercial one. Stable framework conditions and a market design that honors flexibility are elementary prerequisites for sustainably transforming the energy system.

The Chinese-German Energy Partnership was initiated in 2006. On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) the Deutschen Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH together with its Chinese partners National Development and Reform Commission of the People’s Republic of China (NDRC) and National Energy Administration of the People’s Republic of China (NEA) coordinates all activities. Shortly before the current workshop the “Eighth Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM8)” took place. CEM8 is a global platform for the promotion of a clean and sustainable energy supply, involving 24 countries and the European Commission. One of the highlights of CEM8 was the launch of the „Advanced Power Plant Flexibility Campaign“, in which interested companies and institutions can participate.