China’s Power Crunches To Worsen Without More Nuclear And Hydro
(Bloomberg) -- China needs to accelerate its build-out of energy sources such as nuclear and pumped-hydro to stave off worsening power crunches in its industrial centers, according to a government-backed think tank.
Some of the big cities that have recently suffered power outages when summer demand for air-conditioning peaks are likely to see widening shortfalls in energy supply, according to the China Electric Power Planning and Engineering Institute, in a report covering China’s energy needs through 2025.
China’s main energy source, coal, will very gradually be phased out even as electricity demand increases as the economy grows. Nuclear and pumped-hydro are particularly useful as back-ups to the intermittent power generated by other clean energy sources like wind and solar.
Pumped-hydro is one of the oldest forms of storing energy. During times of excess power, pumps are used to push water up an incline. When more energy is needed, gravity pulls the water back through a turbine that generates electricity.
The institute attributed the intensifying shortages of power during periods of peak demand to China’s failure to meet targets for new plants. By 2020, it had built only about three-quarters of the capacity planned for both nuclear and gas, which is cleaner than coal but still emits carbon. For pumped-hydro, only half the target was met.
The major population cluster of Beijing-Hebei-Tianjin alone could see a 25 gigwatt shortage by 2025 - the equivalent of about two dozen nuclear power plants. Other manufacturing hubs on the eastern coast, and cities in landlocked central China, could face shortfalls of similar size, according to the report.
The solution involves adding at least 20 GW of nuclear and 31 GW of pumped-hydro power, bringing the totals to 70 GW and 62 GW respectively by 2025, the think tank said.
China’s power demand will continue to grow through 2045, though the pace will slow as the nation increasingly adopts electrification, according to the institute. An average annual increase of 3.9% is expected by 2025, before falling to 2.6% by 2035. That compares to the 18% growth seen in the last five months, a particularly rapid rise because of the economy’s strong rebound from the pandemic.
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