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China Stops Releasing Data Showing Lower Solar Power Utilisation

Break-neck expansion in China’s renewable energy capacity has led to more power generation than the country’s grids can handle — something recent data affirmed

An electricity pylon and powers lines are seen against a backdrop of wind turbines in Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, China
An electricity pylon and powers lines are seen against a backdrop of wind turbines in Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, China. Photo: Reuters


Amid increasing scrutiny of excess capacity in its renewable energy grids, China has chosen to not release data on power usage rates by generation source in its latest monthly report.

In the report released on Friday, China’s energy administration published only the average operating hours of all types of power plants for January to May.

Previous data releases had broken down the statistics by generation source, including hydro, thermal, nuclear, wind, and solar generation.


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The report did not give a reason for the change and China’s energy administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But the omission is significant given recent data pointed to declining utilisation at solar and wind power plants, a trend that was expected to continue.

Billions in state subsidies have allowed China’s renewable energy generation to expand at break-neck speed, but that has also led to more power generation than the country’s grids can handle.

Grid managers in the country are, as a result, curtailing renewable power generation, especially in the case of solar. Curtailment is when grid managers stop a certain amount of supply coming onto the grid to maintain balances with demand.

Meanwhile, the US and Europe are scrutinising China’s solar power generation, accusing Beijing of flooding the industry with cheap panels and solar cells and distorting the market. Data pointing to falling renewable energy utilisation would seem to confirm their accusations.

This is the second instance over the past year when China has chosen to stop publishing data pointing to certain challenges in the economy.

Last August, China suspended the release of youth unemployment data, which had hit record highs, before resuming the reports in January with a new methodology that excludes students.


Increasing curtailment

Power data release in May showed that solar and wind plant utilisation fell between January-April while hydro and thermal plant utilisation increased. The was the last report to include the detailed statistics.

In the first four months of the year, the average operating hours of wind and solar power plants dropped by 77 hours and 42 hours to 789 and 373 hours, respectively. Hydro plant operating hours rose by 48 hours to 783 hours on average and thermal power plants rose by 23 hours to 1,448 hours, respectively.

Usage rates for wind and solar were expected to drop further after the government relaxed rules on renewable power utilisation in May.

Beijing increased the limit on renewable power curtailment from 5% to 10%, while also accelerating plans to build ultra-high voltage transmission lines.

The previous limit of 5% was in line with rates of 1.5-4% in most big markets, according to the International Energy Agency.

The change is expected to allow more renewable capacity to be built, but at lower utilisation rates.

Average utilisation hours of all power generators surveyed were 1,372 during the first five months of the year, 59 hours lower than in the same period of 2023, according to the energy bureau data on Friday.


  • Reuters, with additional editing by Vishakha Saxena


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Vishakha Saxena

Vishakha Saxena is the Multimedia and Social Media Editor at Asia Financial. She has worked as a digital journalist since 2013, and is an experienced writer and multimedia producer. As a trader and investor, she is keenly interested in new economy, emerging markets and the intersections of finance and society. You can write to her at [email protected]


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