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May 14, 2014

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Home » Business » Energy

US$33.7b plan to bring power east

A PLAN to build 12 electricity transmission lines linking coal production and hydropower centers in inland areas to the densely populated east might soon be approved by energy authorities, China’s largest grid operator said yesterday.

The four UHV AC (ultra-high-voltage alternating current) power transmission lines, five UHV DC (direct current) lines and three conventional 500-kilovolt networks will require a total investment of more than 210 billion yuan (US$33.7 billion).

Zhang Zhengling, a planning official with the State Grid Corporation of China, said the lines would send electricity from Inner Mongolia, Shanxi, Shaanxi and Yunnan to Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei, as well as to two delta economic hubs along the Yangtze and Pearl rivers.

“The projects, considered important investment measures to stabilize economic growth, aim to ease power shortages in the east and alleviate the worsening smog problems in central and eastern regions,” Zhang said.

If the National Development and Reform Commission, the top economic planner, and the National Energy Administration agree the plan, construction could start this year.

The State Grid, which supplies electricity to 80 percent of China’s population, will be responsible for building 11 lines, while the China Southern Power Grid will construct the line distributing power from Yunnan to Guangdong, Guangxi, Yunnan, Guizhou and Hainan, home to some 230 million users.

As part of China’s action plan to control air pollution, the project would help cut thermal coal consumption by 200 million tons a year and reduce the density of PM2.5 pollutant particles by 4 to 5 percent in central and eastern regions, the State Grid estimated.

The investment could add 90 billion yuan in output value for electricity equipment manufacturers, while bringing 500 billion yuan of investment to the power generating sector, it added.

China has long depended on coal-burning power plants to fuel its growth but air pollutants have been rising alarmingly in recent years, and policy-makers are trying to shift the energy structure by using greener power and transporting more electricity from the west.

AC lines, however, remains controversial, with some questioning their safety.

“The country has never operated a UHV AC line, we don’t know what result it may bring,” said Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University.

He said a trial was needed. “If we build such UHV AC lines one by one, it will be clear whether such technology is okay or not.”

UHV is designed to deliver large quantities of power over long distances with less power loss than the most commonly used 500-kilovolt lines.

Cai Guoxiong, the State Grid’s deputy chief engineer, said tests by China Electric Power Research Institute and Tsinghua University showed the technology to be “positive” and safety not a problem.

UHV DC lines are frequently used in point-to-point power transmission, while UHV AC technology is preferred in massive grid transmission.

China currently has two UHV DC power transmission lines in operation, the Xiangjiaba-Shanghai and Jinping-Nanjing transmission lines, which were completed in 2010 and 2012.


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