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Chinese Investments in Thermal Power Generation Reached Record Low in 2018


According to the China Electricity Council (CEC), total investments in power generation in China declined by 3.9% in 2018 to CNY 278.7bn (US$40bn), as investments in thermal power generation contracted by 8.3% to CNY78.6bn (US$11.35bn), its lowest level since 2004: investments in coal-fired power generation dipped by 8.8% to CNY 64.4bn (US$9.3bn), to the advantage of investments in hydropower (+13% to CNY 70bn (US$10bn)). Investments declined in nuclear power generation (-1.6% to CNY 44.7bn (US$6.45bn)), but also in wind and solar: investments in wind power decreased by 5.2% to CNY 64.6bn (US$9.3bn), while those in solar power generation fell by 27% to CNY 20.7bn (US$3bn). This fall is related to Chinese policies aimed at tackling a subsidy payment shortfall and at curbing overcapacities. Investments in transmission remained stable, at around CNY 534bn (US$77bn), but rose by 6.4% in distribution to CNY 302bn (US$43.6bn).

According to the CEC, renewable development, coal consumption cut and improvements in transmission and distribution losses helped reducing CO2 emissions from the power sector by around 13.68 GtCO2 over the 2006-2018 period. The average carbon intensity would have decreased by 19% between 2005 and 2018, from around 841gCO2/kWh to 592 gCO2/kWh. In 2018, non-fossil power generation rose by 11% to more than 30% of the total power generation in China, thanks to soaring wind and solar production. Moreover, curtailment rates are improving: in 2018, the average curtailment rate for wind power was 7% (i.e. 28 TWh), down from 12% in 2017, while it stood at 3% (5.5 TWh) for solar power, compared to 5.8% in 2017.


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