Smart internet applications to bolster renewable energy industry and transform supply chain, says Envision

Sunday, 17 September, 2017, 2:59pm

Eric Ng

Wind and solar energy, despite their intermittent output, are already matching or beating the competitiveness of coal-fired power in many regions globally, including parts of China, according to a founder of the nation’s second largest wind turbine maker.

This is partly thanks to increasing deployment of software and infrastructure allowing so-called energy internet of things technology – the combination of smart devices with data analytics – to facilitate smart energy distribution and storage to reduce the overall cost of wind and solar energy.

“The LCOE [levelised cost of energy] will fall further … [perhaps by] a few per cent a year,” Envision Energy group executive director Felix Zhang Xuyu told the South China Morning Post in a recent interview. “There is no reason to build more coal fired power plants. Globally, in the last two years, more renewable power plants were built than fossil fuel ones.”

LCOE is the average price a power plant must receive for each unit of power sold to break even over its lifetime.

Although coal is abundant and relatively cheap in China, in some parts of the renewable energy rich northern regions, technological advancement means wind and solar power is already as competitive as pollution prone coal-fired power which supplies the lion’s share of the nations power needs.

But due to grid bottlenecks and the intermittent nature of wind and solar power, a portion of the output generated by many wind and solar projects in China is wasted and not sent to the grid, hampering their competitiveness.

Part of the reason for the bottlenecks is the need to transmit excess power in the energy rich but sparsely populated western and northern regions to major consumption centres in central and coastal provinces.

Industry-wide overcapacity in most parts of the country – the worst in more than half a century – was driven by a power plant construction binge over the past few years and slower power demand growth, which did not help in absorbing the excess power generated.

Beijing earlier this month announced China’s first ever batch of approved wind power projects with power prices in parity with coal fired power, as it pursues a goal for all onshore wind projects to be rid of subsidies by 2020.