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Transforming China’s West Into A Hub For Solar Energy

In the wake of the annual meeting of two of China’s highest political bodies, one of the country’s leading politicians and business figures has called for the conversion of its vast interior into a hub for the development of renewable energy

Liu Hanyuan, chairman of Tongwei Co., Ltd. and a member of the national committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) that just recently concluded its once-yearly meeting, is pushing for the development of policies to fully exploit the climate resources of western China by making it a centre for solar energy.

“The central western region of our country possesses vast deserts, steppes, and the Gobi. Its solar energy sources are abundant, and [it] can be used for the vigorous development of solar power plants, and the establishment of a new energy hub,” said Liu.

China’s vast interior has long lagged behind the country’s newly affluent coastal provinces in terms of economic and social development. Liu nonetheless points out that the west possesses a number of critical advantages compared to eastern China when it comes to solar energy, including huge expanses of unoccupied space, long daylight hours and strong sunlight.

The main motive cited by Liu for the development of solar power in China is environmental, with the expectation that environmental damage will continue worsen as economic growth proceeds unless an alternative to fossil fuels can be found.

“Following the rapid development of our national economy, energy consumption continue to surge year after year, and fossil fuels are causing increasingly severe damage to the environment,” said Liu Hanyuan. “The emission of large volumes of carbon dioxide and soot presents a huge threat to the environment of our nation…the vigorous development of new energy has already become one of the commanding heights for the development of the global economy in the 21st century.

“China should make the western region’s abundant solar resources the strategic choice for key energy supply, and confirm as soon as possible China’s backbone network for the transmitting power from the west to the east.”

Liu has called for the expansion of the significance of this “backbone” network in China’s 13th Five Year Plan – the key policy document covering the period from 2016 to 2020 which is currently in the process of being drafted by the country’s chief decision-makers.

According to Liu the network would ensure that solar energy generated in the sun-drenched climes of central and western China can be conveyed to the more economically advanced parts of the country in the east and along the coast, serving to support their ongoing development.

Liu believes that as much as 1 TW of solar power could be transmitted along the country’s power grids, serving to support China’s energy consumption over the next one to two decades, and stymie the growth of coal usage.

The latest data from the China Electricity Council (CEC) confirms that the central and western parts of China have already emerged as the leading areas for the development of solar power, with Gansu, Qinghai and Xinjiang hosting 5.17GW, 4.11 GW and 3.76 GW of capacity respectively, Inner Mongolia more than 2 GW, and Ningxia over 1 GW, out of a national total of 26.52 GW as of the end of December 2014.

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Written By

is an Australian trade journalist and technical translator with a keen interest in trends and development in the global energy sector, and their ramifications for economic growth in the future. He spent most of the noughties as resident of the greater China region and is literate in both Mandarin and Classical Chinese. Marc’s avocational interests include distance running, French literature, economic history, European board games, and submission grappling.


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