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Solar shines in China, but western provinces are left in the dark – China business and technology news from May 5, 2017

summary of today’s top news in Chinese business and technology. Part of the daily SupChina news roundup "Russia blocks WeChat."
6 months ago
Lucas Niewenhuis

China increased its total solar panel capacity by 80 percent in the first quarter of 2017 compared with the same quarter last year, according to a statement (in Chinese) on May 4 from China’s National Energy Administration. But despite the government’s determination that China dominate the world market for solar panels — the New York Times reported (paywall) last month that this may already have happened — many deficiencies remain. For instance, Bloomberg notes, “Central and eastern China accounted for about 89 percent of new capacity,” while PV-Tech pointed out that the western provinces of Xinjiang, Gansu, and Ningxia suffer from 39 percent, 19 percent, and 10 percent curtailment, respectively. Curtailment means “a shortage of transmission capacity to connect projects in remote regions to end users,” a long-standing problem for China’s electricity grid — see, for example, this Reuters report from October 2015.

Solar power still occupies a small space in China’s energy mix, and even as it sees strong growth, other types of energy generation are gaining. Energy Post has an article from earlier this year that puts China’s 2016 energy mix into context, while PV-Tech explains that curtailment issues contributed to the government’s downgrading of its 2020 solar panel capacity goal from 150 gigawatts to a more achievable goal of 110 gigawatts last November.

By Lucas Niewenhuis
Lucas Niewenhuis is an associate editor at SupChina who helps curate daily news and produce the company's newsletter, app, and website content. Previously, Lucas researched China-Africa relations at the Social Science Research Council and interned at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. He has studied Chinese language and culture in Shanghai and Beijing, and is a graduate of the University of Michigan.
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