China to connect more wind and solar than expected this year but coal still ‘critical’: analysts

China is planning to connect more wind and solar in 2020 than previously expected, but will continue to add new coal plants at a lick over the next five years, said research group Wood Mackenzie as the nation’s government holds its most important policymaking meeting in Beijing.

The annual ‘Two Sessions’ summit that includes the delayed meeting of China’s National People’s Congress is happening as the Asian giant faces up to the impact on its economy of the coronavirus pandemic, amid fears that it will be tempted to stimulate polluting power sources to help revive growth.

Wood Mackenzie research director Alex Whitworth said China’s renewable growth will remain pivotal to its energy security.

“Subsidies for wind are coming down but State Grid is planning for higher capacity additions [in 2020] than we had been anticipating – 29GW of wind and 39GW of solar, about 4-5GW higher than Wood Mackenzie expected.

“With much of the manufacturing localised, there is limited supply chain risk,” said Whitworth.

WoodMac principal consultant Frank Yu said China could see different regulatory approaches depending on the progress of ‘clean sky’ policies in each province.

Yu said: “Economic growth and stimulus is the priority which may therefore see some diversification of strategies. But this doesn’t mean that China is simply going to fall back on more coal, and where coal-fired power is approved it will be required to use ‘clean coal’ technology.

“Economic growth and stimulus is the priority which may therefore see some diversification of strategies. But this doesn’t mean that China is simply going to fall back on more coal, and where coal-fired power is approved it will be required to use ‘clean coal’ technology.”

Yu added: “China is committed to electrify its economy, in part to improve energy security. Coal capacity will continue to rise and is critical to keeping electricity prices low.

“Coal currently remains at around 65% of the generation mix. So new capacity will move ahead – we see 120-130GW of new capacity approvals over the next five years, with capacity peaking around 2025.”