China’s Electricity Sector at a Glance: 2013


It is quite a challenge to pin down an electricity system that has grown 10.8 percent annually over the last decade, doubled power generation in just 7 years and added 80-90 gigawatts (GW) – the equivalent of the United Kingdom’s entire generating capacity –every year.

Nevertheless, some preliminary year-end statistics recently published by central agencies (NEA, NBS, CNREC) offer an interesting, though imperfect, snapshot of China’s power sector in 2013.

Notably, after a lull in 2012, electricity demand growth recovered last year owing to resurgent industrial demand. Coal retained its share in terms of capacity factor, while wind saw a rise in capacity factors indicating that some measures to improve integration have had an impact. The “Big Five” state-owned generating companies – which collectively own 47 percent of Chinese generating capacity – made record profits in 2013, and the top electricity regulator was rolled into the top energy policy body in an attempt to streamline oversight.

Let’s take a spin through the 1,250 GW Chinese electricity system…

Electricity demand rebounds with heavy industry-led growth

In 2012, electricity demand growth fell to 5.6 percent, its lowest rate since 1998. In contrast, 2013 saw electricity growth regain 1.6 percentage points, to 7.2 percent growth for the year. While GDP grew at the same 7.7-7.8 percent rate in both years, last year’s surge in electricity demand was driven by an uptick in heavy industry-led growth. Crude steel production grew 7.5 percent compared to 3.1 percent in 2012, while the automobile production sector grew 18.4 percent, almost three times faster than in 2012. As over 70 percent of electricity production in China goes to satisfy industry demands, this readjustment drove national power sector demand (see figure, throughout, historic data is from the CEC – China Electricity Council.)

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