Guizhou to mandate bundling new renewable projects with coal

In a recent policy draft for public comment, Guizhou province makes it official that, in order to get approval, new solar and wind projects should be bundled with other regulating power sources.

The “renewable plus coal power” combination will be favoured in the approval process, while standalone renewable projects are unlikely to get the green light.

According to China Energy News, Guizhou has been promoting since 2021 the mixing of multiple types of power generation to create a more stable energy supply. 

As intermittent wind and solar energy put pressure on the power system, bundling them with other sources such as hydro helps balance things out, facilitating higher renewables uptake by the grid.

The new emphasis on coal as this regulating power source reflects the reality that China’s power planners are grappling with today. Two severe power shortage episodes in 2021 and 2022, the latest one triggered by hydropower failure during an unprecedented drought, has elevated the urgency for strengthening energy security. Coal power’s role as both a reliable back up and a regulating complement to renewables is increasingly recognised by policymakers.

The Guizhou draft policy encourages renewable projects to find coal-power partners to form joint applications. It also makes it clear that only “flexible” coal power is eligible to be included in a bundle. The government includes technical specifications in the policy that define the ability for such coal power to quickly ramp up and down in response to the regulating needs of the system. Coal-fired power plants lacking such responsiveness will not be considered in applications. Experts told China Energy News that the requirement will create strong incentives for existing coal-fired power plants in Guizhou to conduct flexibility retrofits.

Under the new policy, if renewable energy developers do not bundle with a coal energy developer to get approval, they have an alternative option of adding power storage to their project. The power storage component should be no less than 10% of the project’s total installed capacity. Given the relatively high cost of battery-based power storage, the option is considered by experts to be less attractive to developers.

Read China Dialogue’s recent article on the power shortage in Guizhou’s neighbouring province of Sichuan in the summer