Power systems in China evolved in response to economic, social, and political forces that were very different from those in other countries. Many of these practices — designed around rigid, long-term planning for heavy industrial demand and baseload coal generation — will need to change to accommodate the increasingly diverse needs of a dynamic economy and the government’s vision of a low-carbon electricity supply powered by significant amounts of variable wind and solar generation.In this paper, one in a series of primers on the integration of renewables into China’s power systems, authors Fredrich Kahrl and Wang Xuan provide a critical backdrop for this change. They outline the current organizations and institutions governing power system operations in China, ancillary services practices, load management processes, regional power trading schemes, and the challenges that these institutions and practices create for the integration of variable renewable energy sources. The authors focus on five areas for improving power system operations to increase flexibility: economic demand rationing, rational unit commitment and dispatch, consolidated dispatch management, rational scheduling and dispatch across provinces, and ancillary services definitions and rules. While improvements in these five areas are necessary to cost-effectively integrate variable renewable power sources in China, they would also reduce costs, emissions, and improve reliability for the power system as a whole, even without integrating renewable generation.

This paper is also available here in Chinese.