Riding the high tide of clean energy development, China has successfully fertilized the biggest renewable industry in terms of both installation and equipment manufacturing. Renewable energy, a key part of China’s national strategy to combat climate change and air pollution, is replacing coal at an accelerating pace: China’s investment in renewables grew by 100 times compared to 2005 and accounts for one-third of global investments in renewable energy today. China aims to boost its wind power installation to 250 gigawatts and solar to 150 gigawatts by 2020. As a result, China’s renewable energy consumption increased steadily over the past two decades, representing 11 percent of its total energy usage in 2016.

However, curtailment of renewable electricity generation — i.e., the abandonment of electricity generation of effective power capacity — is becoming part of the “New Normal” even as wind and solar installation expand across the country. From 2010 to 2016, 150.4 million megawatt hours, or as much as 16 percent of overall wind generation, was abandoned. Over the last 6 years, the opportunity cost of wind power curtailment in China is estimated to exceed $1.2 billion. The total energy loss is equivalent to 48 million tons of coal consumption, or 134 million tons of CO2emissions, which is equivalent to about 1.5 percent of China’s total emissions in 2016, equal to the total emissions of Algeria in the same year.

To learn from the successful practices in the United States, we found that the coordinated and integrated planning, emphasis on system flexibility, functioning wholesale market and careful market design, expanding operational accessibility, and advancing forecasting are critical requirements for greater renewables penetration.

Read the full article about wind curtailment in China by Ye Qi, Jiaqi Lu, and Mengye Zhu at Brookings.