IRENA’s 13-point plan for China to go neutral

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IRENA has just launched a 13-point plan for China’s climate commitments. Key among the highlights are electrification and a reformation of the country’s power networks.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) found that substantial analysis and coordinated effort will be needed over the next 40 years to set the enabling conditions in place for China’s new energy system.

Drawing on IRENA’s existing, technology-focused studies, the report – China’s Route to Carbon Neutrality: Perspectives and the Role of Renewables – offers key insights and identifies priority actions together with 13 recommendations.

Recommendations include reforming power networks and increasing the electrification in end-use sectors, among others.

Power network reformation

On the matter of power network reformation, the report draws attention to the inherent risks that accompany renewable sources of energy being integrated into the power grid.

Due to their variability, “power systems will need to become much more flexible to allow for the integration of high shares of variable renewable electricity,” states the report.

And to achieve this, the country’s energy system needs to be increasingly decentralised, digitalised and electrified.

“China needs to consider how to change and re-optimise its power system from the traditional centralised system that currently dominates into a hybrid configuration that combines both centralised and distributed power generation systems. China also needs a more flexible inter-regional energy and electricity market to sustain the transition.”

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Increasing electrification

IRENA finds in their latest report a need to not only increase the pace of electrification but also to avoid un-coordinated electrification. This, they state, potentially threatens to increase system peaks and harm transmission and distribution networks.

“Smart electrification enabled by good planning and digitalisation will be a necessity to reduce peak loads, thus minimising the need for investments in enhancing grid options or adding more generation capacity.

“Increasing the flexibility of the loads to better match the outputs of variable renewables would help to increase the use of variable renewable electricity in the power mix and allow other sectors to use renewable electricity. This can be achieved through, for example, load shifting, smart technologies and the production and storage of green hydrogen.”

The insights from China’s Route to Carbon Neutrality: Perspectives and the Role of Renewables come in as the global superpower aims for its carbon emissions to peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.

As the world’s biggest producer and consumer of energy, the country is also the world’s “largest market for renewables”, stated Dolf Gielen, director of IRENA’s Innovation and Technology Centre in Bonn, Germany. “And its energy transition has profound global implications.”

While the recommendations from the report provide an encouraging level of detail, the agency has stated that more is needed. In particular, closer collaboration between IRENA and relevant Chinese institutions, and discussions with Chinese policy makers, will help maximise the value of the work, said the agency in a statement.