Cost-optimal design of a simplified highly renewable Chinese electricity network

Hailiang Liu*, Gorm Bruun Andresen, Martin Greiner

*Corresponding author for this work

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    Rapid economic growth in China has lead to an increasing energy demand in the country. In combination with China's emission control and clean air initiatives, it has resulted in large-scale expansion of the leading renewable energy technologies, wind and solar power. Their intermittent nature and uneven geographic distribution, however, raises the question of how to best exploit them in a future sustainable electricity system, where their combined production may very well exceed that of all other technologies. It is well known that interconnecting distant regions provides more favorable production patterns from wind and solar. On the other hand, long-distance connections challenge traditional local energy autonomy. In this paper, the advantage of interconnecting the contiguous provinces of China is quantified. To this end, two different methodologies are introduced. The first aims at gradually increasing heterogeneity, that is non-local wind and solar power production, to minimize production costs without regard to the match between production and demand. The second method optimizes the trade-off between low cost production and high utility value of the energy. In both cases, the study of a 100% renewable Chinese electricity network is based on 8 years of high-resolution hourly time series of wind and solar power generation and electricity demand for each of the provinces. From the study we conclude that compared to a baseline design of homogeneously distributed renewable capacities, a heterogeneous network not only lowers capital investments but also reduces backup dispatches from thermal units. Installing more capacity in provinces like Inner Mongolia, Jiangsu, Hainan and north-western regions, heterogeneous layouts may lower the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) by up to 27%, and reduce backup needs by up to 64%.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)534-546
    Number of pages13
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


    • China
    • Large-scale integration of renewables
    • Levelised cost of electricity
    • Renewable energy networks
    • Wind power


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