Located in the far northeast corner of China, Heilongjiang in 2014 had a nominal GDP of $242bn, up 2% from 2013. By year-end 2014, Heilongjiang had an installed power generation capacity of 24.8GW, of which 78.6% (19.5GW) was thermal, 17.4% (4GW) wind and 3.9% (1GW) hydro. Heilongjiang commissioned just one 20MW demonstration solar PV project in 2014 and has no major additional capacity in the project pipeline for 2015. In terms of generation, thermal power (mostly coal) dominated with nearly 90% or 89TWh in 2014. Zero-carbon sources, such as large hydro and wind are by comparison negligible players, generating only 10% combined.
Heilongjiang has stated ambitious goals to rely more on zero-carbon of generation, but has largely failed to meet them thus far. In late 2010, the government released its Renewable Energy Industrial Development Plan for 2020. Targets included: boosting wind power’s share of total local generation to 25% by 2015 and 30% by 2020; growing biomass power capacity to 480MW and 1.2GW by 2015 and 2020, respectively; and expanding solar PV capacity to 150MW and 500MW by 2015 and 2020, respectively. However, as of year-end 2014, wind accounted for just 2% of generation while biomass accounted for virtually no capacity, to name two examples unmet expectations.
Despite Heilongjiang’s abundant wind resources and long-term energy development targets, development should prove challenging in the province over the next five years. Already, the region has experienced bottlenecks related to its limited transmission network. Wind represents a relatively tiny share of overall capacity but regularly experiences curtailments. Over the past five years, an estimated 15-20% of potential wind generation went undelivered due to grid congestion. In the winter, the pinch becomes tighter as the province’s grid must reserve extra transmission capacity for combined heat and power coal-fired plants. The production of heat from those plants is considered critical to the province during the colder months. Heilongjiang’s harsh northern weather can result in higher wind operating costs as de-icing equipment is regularly needed both for wind turbines and transmission lines. Workers also need to be shielded from the conditions and the winter can mean longer construction periods due to storms.
Despite falling short of its goals on clean energy to date, Heilongjiang has outlined other ambitions to rein in its CO2 emissions from both the power and industrial sectors. The local government has announced its goal to promote use of less energy-intensive machinery manufacturing for the 13th five-year period. This came on the heels of its 12th Five-year Plan for Greenhouse Gas Emission Management released in 2011, which set a target of cutting CO2 intensity of the overall economy 16% by 2015 against a 2010 baseline. Finally, an independent provincial carbon trading market in Heilongjiang is currently under discussion and could soon to be prioritized in the government’s working agenda.
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