Following closely after Zhejiang, Hubei is now among the provinces promoting new energy direct power supply. On August 1st, the provincial government published the Opinions of the Provincial People’s Government on Further Accelerating the Construction of Major Projects and Expanding Effective Investment (《省人民政府关于进一步加快重大项目建设扩大有效投资的若干意见》). The document underlines the objective to “develop creative models for new energy direct power supply (新能源直供电) and distributed power trading (隔墙售电 or 分布式发电市场化交易), via the following mechanisms:
- improve market-based trading mechanism for distributed power trading
- ameliorate distributed power trading mechanisms
- explore and organize direct trading between new energy projects and the adjacent incremental power consumption projects
- qualified power generation projects can be connected to the incremental power distribution network or the power transformer of power users.
What is new energy Direct Power Supply (新能源直供电)？
Traditionally, power supply in China can be classified in two types: direct grid supply (电网直供电), and non-direct grid supply(非电网直供电). Non-direct grid supply includes the following schemes:
- self-supply with captive power plants owned by power users.
- power supplied by the landlords such as industrial parks, commercial buildings, etc. The power supply can come from the landlords’ captive power plants or can be forwarded from the public power grid.
- power supplied by the local incremental power distribution network, which is operated by a grid owner different than SGCC, CSG, or other independent provincial power grids owned by the states.
The definition of new energy Direct Power Supply in the Renewable Energy 14FYP emphasizes the “promotion of the direct application of renewable energy power generation on the power user side”. In areas where industrial parks, large-scale manufacturing enterprises, large data centers etc. are located, the following actions should be implemented:
- carry out new energy power supply via exclusive power transmission lines (专线供电) in accordance with the local conditions
- build new energy captive power stations
- promote the direct supply of green electricity and the replacement of coal-fired captive power plants
- build a number of green power direct supply demonstration factories and demonstration parks
- carry out demonstration projects with high penetration of new energy in generation, power supply (transmission and distribution), and power consumption
- In combination with the incremental distribution network pilot, actively develop microgrids and DC distribution networks with renewable energy as the backbone
- and expand the scale of direct application of distributed renewable energy on the power user side.
In remote areas, making use of new energy storage solutions, an independent power supply system based on a high proportion of renewable energy shall be built to promote the direct application of renewable energy.
To summarize, the new energy project can be physically connected to the power user via an exclusive power line or be integrated in a microgrid of an incremental distribution network. It can even be independent of the public power grid system in certain occasions. In terms of capacity, there seems to be no limitation specified.
What is the implication for power users and power project investors?
New Energy Direct Power Supply is a new approach for power users to access green power, especially for high power consuming industries. Although the cost of power transmission to transfer the new energy power directly to the power user’s transformer remains to be determined on a project-by-project basis, as it depends on the distance, technical specificity, etc., it is assumed that government funds and surcharge as well as other fees (e.g. cross subsidy) may be charged to power users. Since such projects won’t involve the usage of the public power grid, it is foreseeable and reasonable that the new business model may face many hurdles, especially coming from power grid companies.
From the perspective of new energy project investors, the biggest risk could be the load stability as all power generation is supposed to be off taken by one or several nearby power users.
Provincial governments are trying and testing this new model by lowering dependence on the public power grid
The aforementioned policy released by Hubei government specifies that “incremental” power consumption projects, e.g. newly constructed factories, can adopt this novel mode of power supply. New energy power supply can be directly connected to the power user’s private transformer or to the incremental distribution network. The existing power users of power grid companies are not mentioned in the policy.
In Inner Mongolia Autonomy Region (IMAR), the DRC has recently published three implementation rules and regulations:
- Detailed Rules for the Implementation of Power generation- grid- load-storage Integration Projects (《自治区源网荷储一体化项目实施细则》).
- Detailed Rules for the Implementation of Renewable Energy Substitution Projects for Coal-Fired Captive Power Plants in the Autonomous Region(《自治区燃煤自备电厂可再生能源替代工程实施细则》)
- Detailed Rules for the Implementation of the Autonomous Region’s Wind-Solar-to-Hydrogen Integration Demonstration Project(《自治区风光制氢一体化示范项目实施细则>》
China Power Market essential definitions: What are Power generation- grid- load-storage integration projects? (“源网荷储一体化”) Power generation- grid- load-storage integration projects refer to the operation mode of the overall solution of power supply, power grid, load, and energy storage. The implementation of the integrated model can accurately control the interruptible power load and energy storage resources and improve the safe operation of the public power grid. What is Incremental Distribution Network (IDN)? In principle, it refers to the power grid equal to or below 110kV or to industrial park micro grids (e.g. economic development zone) equal to or below 220kV, without involving the construction of a transmission grid of 220 kV or above.
These three types of market-based projects have four characteristics in common:
- new energy power generation shall be directly connected to the power load
- power generation capacity is designed and decided based on the power demand
- high proportion of new energy in power consumption
- projects barely sell or buy electricity to/from the public power grid except in certain circumstances.
In the Detailed Rules for the Implementation of the Autonomous Region’s Wind-Solar-to-Hydrogen Integration Demonstration Project, the new energy -to-hydrogen project can even choose to be either grid connected or fully off-the-grid.
Can the Incremental Distribution Network pilot benefit from new energy direct power supply?
At present the lack of power supply is the bottleneck of IDN pilot projects in China. According to the《国家发改委国家能源局关于进一步推进增量配电业务改革的通知》policy released by NEA: “In the IDN pilot project, it is forbidden to directly supply power to users by establishing an exclusive power line to connect to the conventional power units”, “it is not allowed to rely on conventional units to set up local area distribution networks and microgrids”, “it is not allowed to rely on captive power plants to build incremental distribution networks”, “It is forbidden to convert public power plants into captive power plants in any way”. (“试点项目内不得以常规机组‘拉专线’的方式向用户直接供电”“不得依托常规机组组建局域网、微电网”“不得依托自备电厂建设增量配电网”“禁止以任何方式将公用电厂转为自备电厂”). Many IDN industrial parks need to purchase power from the grid company or rely on renewable energy and other “unconventional units” inside the park for power supply.
It is still too early to judge how significantly the IDN can benefit from the new energy direct power supply as more rules and regulations on implementation will be later revealed by different provinces. Primarily, if a new energy project can bypass the public power grid and establish a direct link to an IDN (e.g. IDN in an industrial park), the new model will presumably enable IDN operators to have access to nearby grid-scale new energy power supply, instead of simply depending on the purchase from grid companies or other forms of power supply inside the industrial park. Secondly, electricity costs of the IDN could be assumed lower than the usual cost which include gridco’s T&D fees due to the simpler structure and short distance of T&D infrastructure connecting to a nearby new energy project.