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Published on September 25th, 2014 | by Jake Richardson

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China Says Build More Solar Now

September 25th, 2014 by  


China’s National Energy Administration has put more of a focus on supporting distributed solar power. Pilot areas for this type of solar power are being planned at a greater rate.

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Reportedly, a lack of distributed generation installation this year is what prompted the increased interest at a policy level. Only 188 MW of the full target of 8 GW for the year had been installed by Spring. So the government wants solar developers to start building immediately, and apply for quotas afterwards. The point is to focus on construction or installation activity, not on paper work or other administrative details.

“Projects that do not receive enough quotas will be allocated more,” said the Renesola press release.

Bloomberg summarized some of China’s government support for distributed generation: “China last year set a subsidy of 0.42 yuan (7 cents) a kilowatt-hour for the projects. Some projects that have a capacity of less than 20 megawatts and grid voltage of lower than 35 kilovolts in areas without power will get the same subsidy as local ground-mounted plants, NEA said in the statement.”

Of course, it makes sense to support distributed generation in more remote areas because they can’t easily connected to a grid, and might not have a robust local utility, or one at all. It’s also smart if utilities are burning huge amounts of coal, especially coal that might not be of high quality, thereby producing excess emissions. Air pollution in some parts of China is very hazardous, so adding any new clean energy sources must be welcome.

Complicating matters is the fact the government sometimes has to act like an advocacy organization, but it isn’t comprised of democratically elected officials. So if they lean on banks to help finance small-scale distributed generation solar projects, this type of behavior is hardly extraordinary, but still seems a little weird. Small-scale in this case means less than 20 MW.

One very curious thing about some of these solar projects is that they sound similar to community solar, but this form of solar power is generally driven by citizen concern and engagement. In other words, citizens exercise their democratic rights to join together and support community solar through sharing information and shouldering shared financing. If China’s government creates the same kind of community solar for many small communities around the country, will there an unintentional, empowering of local citizens? 
 





 

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