China Power Giant Wants to Get Ahead on Xi’s Emissions Goals

China’s utility giant is planning to upgrade its massive electricity grid over the next few years to allow it to move away from coal generation and reach peak carbon emissions as soon as possible.

State Grid Corp. of China will build new ultra-high voltage transmission lines, speed up construction of pumped hydro storage plants, and accelerate the development of an electric vehicle charging network, the company said in a statement on its website.

The work will take place during the 14th 5-year plan that runs through 2025, and offers a guide to the likely direction of policies that’ll be set out later this week during China’s “two sessions” policy-making meeting. The upgrades will help reduce coal-power generation and peak consumption of the polluting fuel as soon as possible, the company said.

The utility, which runs power networks covering almost 90% of the country, is working to support President Xi Jinping’s target to peak China’s emissions by 2030 and be net-zero by 2060. The country’s best solar and wind resources are often thousands of kilometers away from eastern and central population centers, necessitating the improvements.

“There is hope for energy and power to achieve peak-carbon ahead of schedule,” State Grid said in its statement. “Through carbon capture, utilization and storage technologies, energy and electricity are expected to become carbon neutral as soon as possible.”

State Grid Chairman Xin Baoan said in January that the utility planned to invest $350 billion through 2025 on system upgrades to allow more transmission of clean electricity generation.

As one of China’s largest state-owned firms, State Grid’s goals are sure to be aligned with the nation’s energy and electricity targets set to be announced by the National Development and Reform Commission later this week.

Morgan Stanley analysts including Simon Lee said they expect the national goals to include a target for electricity as a share of energy use, setting the power sector’s carbon emissions peak before 2030, banning approvals of new coal power plants, and further promoting renewable projects and energy storage.

“Electrification is essential for China to raise renewable energy penetration and improve air quality,” Lee said in a note released Monday.

State Grid’s action plan for the next 5 years includes:

  • Building seven ultra-high voltage power lines with transmission capacity of 56 gigawatts.
  • Increasing cross-regional transmission capacity to 300 gigawatts, with half of that carrying clean electricity.
  • Speeding up construction of 41.6 gigawatts of currently underway pumped hydro projects, and having 50 gigawatts of the energy storage capacity in its operating area by 2025.
  • Supporting the construction of peak-shaving gas power plants and the large-scale application of energy storage.
  • Supporting off-grid power developments, with distributed solar capacity expected to reach 180 gigawatts by 2025.
  • Raising electricity’s share of total energy use to at least 30% by 2025 and 35% by 2030.
  • Developing an electric vehicle charging network, a highway fast charging network covering 176 cities, and the world’s largest smart car networking platform.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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