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Cost of solar power soon lower than coal

Hou Liqiang
Updated: Mar 18,2021 08:14    China Daily

The cost of supplying solar energy on a large scale is expected to be lower than coal-fired power by 2025, creating favorable conditions for the country's still arduous transition to carbon neutrality, industry insiders said.

The favorable situation for the country's climate progress will occur thanks to continuous decreases in costs for solar power generation and battery energy storage systems that could help ensure stable output, they said at a forum on photovoltaic energy storage in Beijing on March 17. 

The forum was held only two days after the ninth meeting of the Central Committee for Financial and Economic Affairs, which was presided over by President Xi Jinping.

China will build a clean, low-carbon, safe and efficient energy system, control the use of fossil fuels and take action to shift to alternative energy sources, according to a news release issued by the committee after the meeting.

While addressing the Climate Ambition Summit via video link on Dec 12, Xi announced that China will lift its total installed capacity of wind and solar power to more than 1,200 gigawatts by 2030.

The first major challenge confronting new energy development is to keep bringing down costs. While the cost of solar energy has been the lowest compared with other types of new energy, its intermittent character hinders large-scale application, said Chen Guoguang, president of the smart photovoltaic business unit of telecommunications company Huawei.

"The inevitable solution to address the problem is to combine photovoltaic power generation with battery energy storage," he said on the sidelines of the  forum of March 17. 

Huawei started its energy storage-related business in 2010.

After a rapid decrease in the cost of battery storage in the coming three to five years - and with the support of storage facilities - Chen said he expects to see the cost of supplying 1 kilowatt-hour of electricity in the country's photovoltaic power generation system to the grid decrease to roughly 0.3 yuan (4.6 cents), which is even lower than the current price of coal-fired power.

By then, the solar energy system will be transformed into one with stable and controllable output. Capable of replacing the traditional, high-energy-consuming electricity supply system, it will play a big role in helping the country to realize its target of carbon neutrality before 2060, he added.

Liu Wei, secretary-general of the China Energy Storage Alliance, said many regions across the country have been promoting the development of new energy storage facilities.

The alliance's database shows that the installed capacity of new energy projects being constructed with storage facilities across the country has reached 4 gigawatts, she said.

Seventeen provincial-level regions have included new energy storage in their 14th Five-Year Plans (2021-25) and long-term objectives through the year 2035, she said.

Liu also said 29 provincial-level regions have introduced preferential policies to encourage the construction of new energy storage facilities.

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