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China Looks To Export Surplus Energy To Germany

April 11, 2016

By Paul Homewood


I suppose it was inevitable!


China’s proposed investments in long-distance, ultra-high voltage (UHV) power transmission lines will pave the way for power exports as far as Germany, the head of the national power grid said on Tuesday as he launched an initiative for cross-border power connections. 
Exporting power to central Asia and beyond falls into China’s “one belt, one road” ambitions to export industrial overcapacity and engineering expertise as it faces slowing growth at home. The plan would allow enormous hydropower dams, coal-fired power plants and wind farms in frontier regions such as Xinjiang to sell into higher-priced markets overseas. The “belt” refers to the land route from Asia to Europe, while the “road”, curiously, refers to the sea route via the Indian Ocean.

Talk of exporting power is a reversal for China, which as recently as 2004 suffered rolling blackouts across its manufacturing heartland. But huge investments in power in the decade since, and the construction of a number of dams, nuclear reactors and coal-fired plants due to begin operating in the next 10 years, mean the country faces a growing surplus.
Liu Zhenya, chairman of State Grid, told reporters that wind and thermal power produced in Xinjiang could reach Germany at half the current cost of electricity there. “There are so many resources, but no market. We need to find it externally.”

The distance from Kashgar, an oasis city in Xinjiang near China’s central Asian frontier, to Berlin is only about 400 miles farther as the crow flies than the distance from Kashgar to Shanghai, China’s financial centre.

Other potential markets include Pakistan, India and Myanmar, Mr Liu said. Less than five years ago, Myanmar cancelled a dam that was designed to export power to China. Now, with an excess of dams in China’s south-west, it is the Chinese-produced power that is seeking an outlet.

Mr Liu has forged his career on his support for UHV transmission, which has enabled China to build huge energy projects far from its power-demand centres on the eastern and southern coasts. That has made him a controversial figure among environmentalists opposed to large-scale coal mining and mega-dams. Some power industry executives believe State Grid’s emphasis on UHV has sidelined smaller, more efficient projects nearer to population centres.

Also on Tuesday, State Grid signed a memorandum of understanding with Korea’s power utility and SoftBank of Japan to promote an interconnected grid in north-east Asia.


It’s a frightening prospect that so many countries will be putting their energy security in the hands of the Chinese.

  1. R2Dtoo permalink
    April 11, 2016 12:12 pm

    There are a few modern conveniences and life essentials that can put a society at risk. Your last statement raises the issue of relying on a provider of an essential service, power, that doesn’t necessarily have the same geopolitical aspirations as the recipient. This debate was front and centre in Canada regarding supplying our abundance of fresh water to the USA. The decision not to sell, and develop the massive infrastructure needed for transfer was based on the fear that, once committed, Canada would have to continue supply regardless of natural fluctuations in the resource. The scheme was called NAWAPA (google). The fact that Russia could harm much of Europe by cutting gas supplies also reveals the conundrum. These decisions are not to be taken lightly.

  2. April 11, 2016 12:50 pm

    Does the quote justify the headline* ??? Er No
    – “Liu Zhenya, chairman of State Grid, told reporters that wind and thermal power produced in Xinjiang could reach Germany at half the current cost of electricity there”

    * The headline is “China Looks To Export Surplus Energy To Germany”
    The quote basically says

    ‘You stupid German’s you have screwed up your electricity network with so much green crap, that we Chinese could send electricity all the way to Germany and sell it at half the price you sell it !’

    It soes not say China will do this ? Why would they when other countries en route have a populations bigger that Europe’s, they’d just sell it to them.

    And when they say that Kashgar to Shanghai isn’t much less than the distance of Kashgar to Berlin ..they are just saying China is big (and exaggerating)

    Kashgar to Berlin = 14hr flight
    Kashgar to Shanghai 8 h 20 min flight

    • April 11, 2016 2:41 pm

      That’s the Financial Times headline

      • April 12, 2016 10:16 am

        Yes I know, It’s rather a duff story by the FT
        But their standards have fallen. Their weekly energy newsletter is full of green crap.

        (via proxyserver as suddenly your site is banned by this Indonesian ISP, ohter WP sites work)

      • April 12, 2016 10:18 am

        Yes I know, It’s rather a duff story by the FT
        But their standards have fallen. Their weekly energy newsletter is full of green crap.

  3. Derek permalink
    April 11, 2016 4:03 pm

    If the West do buy Chinese electricity it will show how hollow their claim to want to reduce CO2 emissions is. It is simply beyond parody. It makes a Yes Minister script sound quite sensible by comparison.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      April 11, 2016 5:59 pm

      I already find it absurd that the BritNed interconnector is fed by the coal fired Maasvlakte power stations opposite Hoek van Holland.

    • Svend Ferdinandsen permalink
      April 11, 2016 8:20 pm

      Not at all. Haven’t you heard of green electricty you can buy. They would of cause only buy electricty generated by water and wind, you know green electrons.

  4. Spruance permalink
    April 11, 2016 4:09 pm

    Question will be, with what the Germans will pay for that power.

  5. John F. Hultquist permalink
    April 11, 2016 4:29 pm

    This is hypothetical as mentioned (stew @ 12:50) but also an interesting takeoff in lots of ways. First is how far and fast the world has changed in just a few decades. Contemplating a future just 25 years out is not possible.
    Germany would have to impose restrictions on cheap outside power or completely reorganize its own system. Further, Germany or any other country could block the power at any point so why would anyone, even China, invest in such a thing.
    Germany abruptly stopped its on Nukes, and destroying all the investment therein, so destroying someone else’s wealth would be an easy decision.

  6. April 11, 2016 4:38 pm

    They already do. In the form of steel and especially aluminum. The notion of a HVDC direct connection is pure fantasy.

  7. Graeme No.3 permalink
    April 12, 2016 2:17 am

    It is just another Chinese misdirection about renewables, designed to fool the gullible westerners. After all said gullible people believe that China has committed to reducing its emissions by 2035.

  8. April 12, 2016 3:27 am

    Why is it better for China to burn coal to make electricity and send it to Germany. This should be filed under Stupid is as Stupid does. The World is now officially functionally illiterate!

  9. April 12, 2016 8:16 am

    North Korea would buy surplus Chinese power if it was cheap enough.

  10. It doesn't add up... permalink
    April 12, 2016 9:30 am

    Back of an envelope:

    Kashgar to Berlin:

    3853 miles/6,200km via China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland and Germany.

    HVDC losses 1.5% for rectification/inversion, plus 3.25%/1,000km at 800kVDC or 21.65%

    Click to access factsheet-hvdc-e.pdf

    Cable cost about £1m/km/GW, or £6.2bn/GW; inverters £400m/GW (2010ish prices) (probably somewhat higher for 800kV)

    Click to access 140812_NWCC_App_4_Tech_Cost_Report_Final.pdf

    At 5% financing cost and 50 year amortisation, capital charge on £7bn/GW is ~£380m/GW/a. Power transmitted 5-8TWh/a/GW, for a cost of 47.5-76.0 £/GWh – plus losses so divide by 0.7835 to get £60-97/MWh.

    Is it really viable?

  11. April 12, 2016 10:26 am

    Paul, Delingpole re Port Talbot has some good quotes re Green energy pricing from Indian newspaper

  12. April 12, 2016 10:37 am

    You couldn’t make this stuff up! The EU I it’s wisdom has told its members to reduce their output of a gas that as an unproven effect on global temperature, by using wind and solar power. Because these methods of generating electricity are not reliable, conventional power stations need to be running to provide power when the wind doesn’t blow and the Sun doesn’t shine. However, because the coal fired power stations are being closed down, there is still insufficient capacity, so Germany needs to import electricity from China who is committed to building more and more coal fired power stations. Welcome to the wacky world of Green politics!

  13. April 13, 2016 1:44 pm

    Reblogged this on Patti Kellar and commented:
    Here’s another story to share for all those people who think Europe LOVES wind turbines. Not so much. I have said it before and will say it again, you cannot untie economics from environment from energy.

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