China to boost energy storage capacity to fuel renewable power use

BEIJING, REUTERS -- China aims to boost its large-scale energy storage capacity over the next decade, the government's central planner said, in a major push to solve the problem of stranded power in the west of the country as Beijing promotes the use of more renewable power.

While China has led the globe in pushing for greater reliance on wind and solar power in recent years, getting clean energy from western regions to urban users in the world's top energy consumer has been a major headache.

China generated a total of 5.9 trillion kilowatt hours (kWh) of power in 2016, of which 25.6 percent came from hydro, wind, nuclear and solar power stations.

Storage technology like batteries can help preserve renewable power when demand is low and save it for distribution when consumption picks up. Sufficient storage would prevent power generation being curtailed due to surplus supplies.

A key part of the plan is to issue subsidies to energy storage companies to spur the construction of new power-saving facilities, according to a statement issued by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) on Wednesday. Details of the subsidy were not disclosed.

The government will also launch some pilot projects to test advances in energy storage technology, such as pumped hydro storage, compressed air energy storage, superconducting magnetic energy storage and bulk storage with batteries using substances like lead-acid lithium-ion, the statement said.

Those programmes are expected to be completed by the end of 2020, with the aim of putting the projects into large-scale production five years after that, it said.

"The development of energy storage industry will offer significant support to China's supply-side reform and the transformation of the energy structure," the NDRC said.

The electricity stored in the batteries and systems will be available for sale on the market, the government said.