Ultra-high-voltage electricity transmission in China

Ultra-high-voltage (UHV) electricity transmission is being introduced in China. Four UHV circuits are completed or under construction.


Since 2004, electricity consumption in China has been growing at an unprecedented rate due to the rapid growth of industrial sectors. Serious supply shortage during 2005 had impacted the operation of many Chinese companies. Since then, China has very aggressively invested in electricity supply in order to fulfill the demand from industries and hence secure economic growth. Installed generation capacity has run from 443 GW at end of 2004 to 793 GW at the end of 2008.[1] The increment in these four years is equivalent to approximately one-third of the total capacity of the USA, or 1.4 times the total capacity of Japan.[2] During the same period of time, power consumption has also risen from 2,197 TWh to 3,426 TWh.[1] China's electricity consumption is expected to reach 6,000–6,600 TWh by 2015 from 4,690 TWh in 2011, with installed capacity reaching 1,463 GW from 1,056 GW in 2011, of which 342 GW is hydropower, 928 GW coal-fired, 100 GW wind, 43 nuclear, and 40 natural gas.[3] China is the world's largest consuming nation of electricity in 2011.

Transmission and distribution

On the transmission and distribution side, the country has focused on expanding T&D capacity and reducing losses by:

  1. deploying long-distance ultra-high-voltage AC (UHVAC, referring to 1000 kV) and ultra-high-voltage DC (UHVDC, referring to ±800 kV) transmission
  2. installing high-efficiency amorphous metal transformers.[4][5]

UHV transmission worldwide

UHV transmission is not a new idea, and a number of UHVAC circuits have already been constructed in different parts of the world. For example, 2,362 km of 1,150 kV circuits were built in the Former USSR, and 427 km of 1,000 kV AC circuits have been developed in Japan (Kita-Iwaki powerline). Experimental lines of various scales are also found many countries.[6] However, most of these lines are currently operating at lower voltage due to insufficient power demand or other reasons.[7][8] There are fewer examples of UHVDC. Although there are plenty of ±500 kV (or below) circuits around the world, the only operative circuit above this threshold is the Itaipu ±600 kV project in Brazil. In Russia, construction work on a 2400 km long bipolar ±750 kV DC line, the HVDC Ekibastuz–Centre started in 1978 but it was never finished. In USA at the beginning of the 1970s a 1333 kV powerline was planned from Celilo Converter Station to Hoover Dam. For this purpose a short experimental powerline near Celilo Converter Station was built, but the line to Hoover Dam was never built.

Reasons for UHV transmission in China

China’s decision to go for UHV transmission is based on the fact that energy resources are far away from the load centers. The majority of the hydropower resources are in the west, and coal is in the northwest, but huge loadings are in the east and south.[4][6] To reduce transmission losses to a manageable level, UHV transmission is a logical choice. As the State Grid Corporation of China announced at the 2009 International Conference on UHV Power Transmission in Beijing, China will invest RMB 600 Billion (approx. USD 88 Billion) into UHV development between now and 2020.[9]

Implementation of the UHV grid enables the construction of newer, cleaner, more efficient power generation plants far from population centres. Older power plants along the coast will be retired.[10] This will lower the total current amount of pollution, as well as the pollution felt by citizens within urban dwellings. The use of large central power plants providing electric heating are also less polluting than individual boilers used for winter heating in many northern households.[11] The UHV grid will aid China's plan of electrification and decarbonization,[12] and enable integration of renewable energy by removing the transmission bottleneck that is currently limiting expansions in wind and solar generation capacity whilst further developing the market for long-range electric vehicles in China.[12]

UHV circuits completed or under construction

For explanation of "pulse" and "bipole", see High-voltage direct current

As of 2014, the completed UHV circuits are:

  1. Jindongnan–NanyangJingmen (JNJ): A 654 km, 1000 kV UHVAC circuit. Construction started in November 2006 and completed in December 2008 with capacity of 2800MW. The capacity was expended to 5000MW in December, 2011.[13]
  2. Yunnan - Guangdong (YG): First UHV transmission line in China Southern Power Grid Company. A 1373 km from Lufeng, Yunnan to Zengcheng, Guangdong, ±800 kV UHVDC 12-pulse bipole circuit with 5000 MW capacity. Construction started in December 2006. The lower −400 kV pole test operation completed in July 2009. Monopole operation is achieved on December 28, 2009. Bipole operation is achieved in June 18, 2010.[14]
  3. XiangjiabaShanghai (XS): A 1907 km, ±800 kV UHVDC 12-pulse bipole circuit with 6400 MW capacity. Construction started in December 2007. Operation started in July 8, 2010.
  4. Jinping – Sunan (JS): A 2095 km, ±800 kV UHVDC 12-pulse bipole circuit with 7200 MW capacity. Construction started in 2009, completed in December, 2012.[15]
  5. HuainanShanghai: 2x649km, ±1000 kV double circuit UHVAC with 8000MW capacity, Construction started in October 2011, completed in September, 2013.[16]
  6. HamiZhengzhou: 2192 km, ±800 kV UHVDC. Construction started in May, 2012, completed in January, 2014.[17]
  7. Nuozhadu - Guangdong (NG): Second UHV transmission line in China Southern Power Grid Company. A 1413 km from Puer, Yunnan to Jiangmen, Guangdong, ±800 kV UHVDC with 5000 MW capacity. The line started operation in September, 2013.[18]
  8. Xiluodu - Zhejiang West (XZ): A 1680 km from Yibin to Jinhua, Zhejiang, ±800 kV UHVDC with 8000 MW capacity, the highest so far in China. The line is operational by at July, 2014.[19]

The under-construction UHV lines are:

  1. Zhejiang North - Fuzhou (ZF): 2x603km, ±1000 kV double circuit UHVAC with 6800MW capacity. The line started construction in April, 2013, and plan to be operational by March, 2015.[20]

Controversy over UHV

There has been controversy over UHV since 2004 when the State Grid Corporation of China (website) proposed the idea of UHV construction. The controversy has been focused on UHVAC while the idea of building UHVDC has been widely accepted.[21] The most debated issues are the four listed below.

  1. Security and reliability issues: With the construction of more and more UHV transmission lines, the power grid around the whole nation is connected more and more intensively. If an accident happens in one line, it is difficult to limit the influence to a small area. This means that the chances of a blackout are getting higher. Also, it may be more vulnerable to terrorism.
  2. Market issue: All other UHV transmission lines around the world are currently operating at a lower voltage because there is not enough demand. The potential of long distance transmission needs more in-depth research. Although the majority of coal resources are in the northwest, it is difficult to build coal power plants there because they need a large amount of water and that is a scarce resource in northwest China. And also with the economic development in west China, the demand of electricity has been booming these years.
  3. Environmental and efficiency issues: Some experts argue that UHV lines won't save more land compared to building extra rail roads for increased coal transport and local power generation.[22] UHV lines may also be harmful to the human body. Due to the water scarcity issue, the construction of coal-fired power plants in the west is hindered. Another issue is transmission efficiency. Using combined heat and power at user end is more energy efficient than using power from long distance transmission lines.
  4. Economic issue: The total investment is estimated to be 270 billion RMB (around 40 billion USD), which is much more expensive than building new rail road for coal transportation.

Also, the huge amount of investment in UHV transmission may draw investment away from energy efficiency programs and power grid distribution reconstruction (which is argued to be the most vulnerable part of whole power grid).

However, the construction of UHV may boost the development of renewable energy in China, especially wind energy in west China (Neimenggu and Xinjiang area).

There is also controversy over whether the construction proposed by State Grid Corporation of China is a strategy to be more monopolistic and fight against the power grid reform.[21]

See also


  1. ^ a b Data available from China National Statistics Bureau, http://www.stats.gov.cn
  2. ^ Data available from Electricity Information Administration, DOE, US, http://www.eia.doe.gov
  3. ^ http://www.chinamining.org/News/2012-03-14/1331688172d55207.html
  4. ^ a b Li, Jerry (2009), From Strong to Smart: the Chinese Smart Grid and its relation with the Globe, AEPN, Article No. 0018602, Asia Energy Platform. Available at http://www.aepfm.org/link.php
  5. ^ Li, Jerry (2008), Deployment of Amorphous Metal Distribution Transformer in China, China Electric Power Yearbook 2008, p. 793–795, China Electric Power Press (In Chinese)
  6. ^ a b Du Z (2008), Study on Strategic Planning of Ultra High Voltage Grid Development in China, Ph.D Thesis, Shangdong University (In Chinese)
  7. ^ Zhao J, Niu L (2007a), Research and Application of UHVAC Transmission Technologies in Japan Part I, Proceedings of CSU-EPSA, Vol. 19, No. 1, p. 28–33 (In Chinese)
  8. ^ Zhao J, Niu L (2007b), Research and Application of UHVAC Transmission Technologies in Japan Part II, Proceedings of CSU-EPSA, Vol. 19, No. 4, P. 1–6 (In Chinese)
  9. ^ UHV Corner, State Grid of China Corporation, http://www.sgcc.com.cn/ztzl/tgyzl/default.shtml (In Chinese)
  10. ^ Chen, Stephen (2014), China to build new hi-tech power network to help fight pollution, SCMP. Available: http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1512282/china-build-new-hi-tech-power-grid-help-fight-pollution
  11. ^ Hudson, Dale (2014), Super-grid: China masters long-distance power transmission, Reuters. Available: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/06/19/us-china-electricity-grid-kemp-idUSKBN0EU19B20140619
  12. ^ a b Reference 11
  13. ^ http://news.xinhuanet.com/energy/2011-12/15/c_122428454.htm
  14. ^ http://www.cec.org.cn/zhuanti/2012nianzhuantihuigu/zhongguodianlizhutiri/huihuangchengjiu/2012-08-03/88527.html
  15. ^ "World's Longest UHV Power Line Operational in China". Transmission & Distribution World. January 2013. Retrieved 21 March 2013. 
  16. ^ http://news.xinhuanet.com/fortune/2013-09/25/c_117508544.htm
  17. ^ http://www.cec.org.cn/yaowenkuaidi/2014-01-27/116294.html
  18. ^ http://www.csg.cn/index/dbt/201309/t20130903_66186.html
  19. ^ http://business.sohu.com/20140704/n401786343.shtml
  20. ^ http://www.sgcc.com.cn/ztzl/tgyzl/zxbd/293860.shtml
  21. ^ a b Han,X.P.(2009) Clone of Tyrannosaur—debate of ultra-high-voltage (in Chinese)
  22. ^ Chen, W.X.(2009) Coal transportation or ultra-high-voltage? (in Chinese)
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