Advancing sustainable growth in the United States and China

Going for Gold: Championing Renewable Integration in Jing-Jin-Ji

RE Report Cover ENBest practices from Germany and Texas

By Anders Hove and Kevin Mo

China is shifting to an energy system based on increasing percentages of clean power. Although China now leads the world in installations of wind and solar power (with 129 GW of connected wind capacity and 44 GW of solar PV as of 2015), the country has struggled to integrate the energy from wind and solar into power grids. But it can make progress by selectively adopting best practices from other countries and states facing the same challenges.

Specifically, we believe that China—in particular, the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region (known as “Jing-Jin-Ji”), where the 2022 Winter Olympics will be held—can pilot renewable integration policies similar to those adopted in Germany and Texas. Germany and Texas have each succeeded in reducing wasted, or “curtailed,” wind power by adding transmission and changing market rules and grid operations. These two locations are excellent case studies for Jing-Jin-Ji for several reasons: renewable energy production in Germany and Texas is roughly the same distance from densely populated urban areas as those in the Jing-Jin-Ji region. Jing-Jin-Ji’s population is similar to that of Germany and larger than that of Texas, and its electricity consumption is on par with that of both places. Finally, Germany and Texas both had to make difficult policy changes to enable renewable energy integration.

In this report, we recommend a pilot of renewable energy integration covering the entirety of Jing-Jin-Ji that incorporates the following features:

  • Establishing clear timelines for reducing curtailment of renewable energy in the region. The examples of Germany and Texas suggest that 4-5 years is sufficient time for completing the investments and policy changes needed to reduce renewable energy curtailment to as low as 1%. Achieving such a target will require a clear plan and timeline for action.
  • Improving coordination of transmission planning with renewable power additions within Jing-Jin-Ji, along with accelerating investments in transmission to ensure that the region can meet clean energy targets.
  • Testing a regional spot market across the entire Jing-Jin-Ji region. The present design of China’s feed-in tariff policy and lack of a spot power market make renewable energy appear artificially expensive relative to other choices.
  • Expanding dispatch to enable renewable energy to reach the entire Jing-Jin-Ji region whenever it is available, merging planning and control activities where needed. This change, which was essential in both Germany and Texas, will require a shift in the way the grid companies operate.

The 2022 Winter Olympics are an important catalyst for integrating renewable energy in Jing-Jin-Ji. As Beijing and Zhangjiakou prepare to co-host the Games, both are pursuing ambitious strategies to show progress on resolving air quality problems and showcase clean energy technology. Zhangjiakou is focusing on scaling up renewable energy, while nearby Beijing is promoting large-scale adoption of electric vehicles. What better way to promote clean energy than to link the two cities’ efforts explicitly, powering Beijing’s clean vehicle fleet with wind and solar from Zhangjiakou? Ensuring that clean energy from Zhangjiakou can reach all areas of Jing-Jin-Ji would also represent a tangible achievement of efforts to promote economic integration across this region. If Jing-Jin-Ji can resolve some of its biggest renewable energy challenges, these policies can be replicated nationally and even globally.