Flexible power plants increase the share of renewable energy in China

State of Green
By State of Green, July 04, 2019

A Danish-Chinese energy partnership supports China in increasing the flexibility of its coal-fired power plants. This has resulted in more green energy in the electricity system, corresponding to nine 800 MW offshore wind farms, and reduced CO2 emissions by 22 million tonnes, equivalent to 63 per cent of the CO2 emissions from the Danish energy consumption.

On the road to a fossil-free society, where more wind energy is to be integrated, there is a need for the Chinese coal-fired power plants to be able to react quickly when wind energy production rises or falls. Because wind energy varies as much as the wind blows, it requires advanced planning to incorporate wind energy into the energy system so that green energy is used optimally.

This requires a major transformation of the national energy planning, and this is a challenge for many of the world’s largest CO2 emitters – also for China. In 2016, 17 per cent of China’s total wind energy production was wasted, and never reached consumers because the energy system was unable to absorb the energy optimally. In some Chinese regions, the loss was as high as 50 per cent, which also resulted in a very poor return on investments in wind turbines.

Related solution: Flexible power demand – INCAP

China is the world’s largest CO2 emitter and, at the same time, the country that invests most in renewable energy. If the 17 per cent is converted to EU energy production, over 80 per cent of offshore wind power across the EU would never reach consumers.

Danish experience with 40 years of green transition shows the way

Chinese and Danish authorities have collaborated on strengthening the development of wind energy in China since 2005. Denmark is an international showcase for green transition. By transferring experience and solutions from long-term energy policy developed over 40 years to other countries, Denmark can support a global green transition and multiply the effect of the Danish energy model.

Almost half of the Danish electricity production today comes from wind energy and Denmark has for many years built up strong regulation and technology, which ensures that wind energy is optimally incorporated into the Danish energy system. This requires the right incentives that make it more attractive for power plant manufacturers to be more flexible. And then it requires technical solutions that enable the coal power plants to act flexibly and, for example, quickly reduce the electricity production from coal or biomass when the wind blows.

Through a collaboration with the China National Energy Administration, the Danish Energy Agency has shared the Danish experiences about how it is possible to run coal-fired power plants flexibly, and how authorities and coal-fired power plants push this development. Through capacity building and experience sharing with Chinese key actors, the unique system thinking from the Danish energy model has been transferred to the world’s largest energy system.

Today, China has come a long way in solving the challenge, thereby strengthening the integration of renewable energy and improving the business case for investing in wind energy. The latest figures show that the total amount of wind energy that is wasted has been reduced from 17 per cent in 2016 to 7 per cent in 2018.

Government cooperation paves the way for attractive green investments

The world market for green transition is getting bigger and bigger. In the struggle to mitigate climate change, the world community needs investment equivalent to at least EUR 12,000 billion over the next 11 years alone to meet the national climate contributions to the green transition. But the investments do not come by themselves. A strong investment climate requires long-term climate and energy policy and stable framework conditions for renewable energy.

Related solution: International Partnerships for Energy Transformation

In China, the higher utilisation of wind energy production means that Chinese wind producers will receive dividends of 93 per cent on average of their electricity production instead of 83 per cent. Together with the technology development, which now means that onshore wind is the cheapest technology, when new electricity production plants have to be set up in China, flexibility in coal power plants has thus been a key factor in making it far more attractive to invest in Chinese wind projects than just 4 years ago. In this way, the Danish-Chinese government cooperation is a catalyst for a cost-effective green transition.


  • The Danish-Chinese government cooperation on energy is run by the Danish Energy Agency and financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the Climate Pool.
  • The collaboration between China and Denmark was established in 2005, when the first bilateral agreement to promote the use of wind energy in China was signed. Today, the cooperation focuses on supporting China in the fulfillment of the Paris Agreement and the UN SDGs for energy and climate.
  • As part of the collaboration, the Danish Energy Agency and the China National Energy Administration have carried out a focused effort on increased flexibility in coal-fired power plants.
  • In addition, the Danish Energy Agency has supported the establishment of a national RE center in Beijing: China National Renewable Energy Center (CNREC). CNREC was established in 2009, and the Danish Energy Agency cooperates with CNREC on the development of scenarios for China’s electricity sector up to 2050.
  • Denmark has 15 governmental cooperation on energy with countries that together account for more than 60 per cent of the world’s CO2 emissions. By building knowledge and capabilities in partner countries’ national authorities, policy makers are strengthened to make sustainable and cost-effective energy policy decisions that support the global green transition.


The Danish Energy Agency (in Danish)

Photo: Suleyman Naumov on Unsplash

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