Clean energy use data missing from gov release

The utilisation hours of China’s wind and solar power capacity are missing from monthly statistics released by the National Energy Administration (NEA) on 28 June.

While previous releases specified utilisation hours by energy source, the latest only provide it for all sources.

Utilisation hours are calculated by dividing power generated in a given period by total capacity of power-generation equipment.

On WeChat, Global Net-Zero suggested the data was missing because use of China’s wind and solar has continued to decline in recent months.

China’s rapid development of wind and solar has been distributed unevenly across the country, and the grid’s carrying capacity is limited. In the 2010s, this meant curtailment – or wastage – with some solar power stations forced to stop generating during peak hours. The government then set, in 2018, a requirement of 95% average utilisation rate – capacity use divided by total capacity – of wind and solar in 2020. The rate in 2023 was 97.3% for wind and and 98% for solar, according to NEA data released in February.

However, large wind and solar power bases have been connected to the grid this year, and curtailment has become more prominent. Solar utilisation rate was 93.4% this February, falling below 95% for the first time since 2020, according to the National New Energy Consumption Monitoring and Early Warning Center. The last relevant statistics released by the NEA show that average utilisation hours of wind from January to April this year was 789 and solar was 373 – 77 hours and 42 hours less than the same period last year, respectively.

Given the substantial increase in consumption demand, China issued a policy in May to relax the target of new-energy utilisation rate, “in principle, no less than 90%” in some (unspecified) parts of the country. Xinhua News Agency mentioned the need to speed up the construction of projects that support renewables in the grid.

Read Dialogue Earth’s previous analysis on how China’s Southern Grid is trying to facilitate more clean-energy consumption.