China leaps toward transformer efficiency

China faces numerous challenges in providing power to its more than 1.3 billion people. Adding to that challenge is the amount of energy that is lost in China.

As the world’s most populous country, it stands to reason that China is the world’s top energy producer and top energy user. According to the Wall Street Journal, in 2010, China’s energy consumption was over 3.25 billion tons of coal equivalent, which was an increase of 5.9 percent. Non fossil fuels account for eight percent of China’s energy use, and the country intends to increase it to 15 percent by 2020.

According to the International Copper Association’ office of Southeast Asia, annual electricity loss in China is more than 20 billion kWh. The organization further estimates that 30 to 40 percent of these losses come from power transmission and distribution. The association also stated that power loss from inefficiencies in the grid’s transformers themselves amounts to more than the equivalent to three percent of the nation’s total installed generation capacity.

A number of organizations in China have teamed with Action Sustainable Development (ASD-France) in an effort to increase the energy efficiency in China’s transformers and power distribution systems. The effort, which was announced on Dec. 3, 2010, will focus on achieving high levels of energy conservation and emissions reductions through use of higher efficiency transformers.

The various partnering agencies believe that the shift from S7/S9 transformers, which are nearing the end of their lifespan of about 20 years, but are still widely used, to S11 and above would save tremendous amounts of electricity.

The Chinese National Institute of Standardization is moving forward with amendments to the Energy Efficiency Standards and Life Cycle Assessments for Transformers. These amendments, which will be implemented over the next three years, are forecast to save about 887 million kWh of electricity and reduce carbon emissions by up to 840,000 tons each year.

“With the adoption of higher efficiency transformers, an estimated 3.8 billion kWh of electricity will be saved annually,” Zhao Yue Jin, Senior Engineer of CNIS said in a press release. Zhao added that additional benefits included the reduction of 3.9 million tons of sulfur dioxide.

Taking the lead is China Southern Power Grid, which will introduce more efficient transformers to its urban distribution system in 2011. This will lower grid losses to 6.3% (1.08% less than in 2005).

China is investing heavily in smart grid development and other upgrades. According to China Power Equipment Inc., the country has launched a $7.3 billion (U.S.) investment in smart grid development. Additionally, the State Grid Corporation, which is responsible for 80 percent of the nation’s power, is currently operating a 400 mile-long mega-volt transmission line as a pilot program, ahead of its plan to install 11,000 miles of (low-losses) ultra-high voltage transmission lines by 2012. These developments represent a huge emerging market for highly efficient transformers.

In Beijing, Chinese RMB 230 million has been invested to replace energy intensive equipment in 166 major energy units with more efficient electrical motors and transformers. This is expected to save over 25 million kWh annually.

This is all part of an RMB 5 trillion ($753 billion U.S.), plan to develop an energy efficient economy and alternative energy sources in China.

China has established an energy use cap of 4 billion tons of coal equivalent by 2015, according to the Nation’s National Energy Administration. In addition to investments in transformer efficiency, the country is also investing heavily in clean coal, oil refining, thermal power, nuclear power, and renewable energies.

According to China’s National Energy Administration, the country recognizes energy security as a significant task through 2015, the nation will increase strategic reserves or oil and gas, and will construct storage facilities for natural gas and coal.

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