Solar energy faces obstacles abroad and at home

Updated: 2012-12-31 03:46

By Cheng Yingqi (China Daily)

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Barriers ahead

Solar devices will not have a large market unless some policy barriers are lifted, experts said.

"Unlike people in Europe, most urban residents in China live in high-rise buildings, which means that they have to share roofs with their upstairs or downstairs neighbors," said Li Ang, senior campaigner for the environmental organization Greenpeace's climate change and energy project.

"So it's difficult for any individual resident to install photovoltaic systems without having the permission of all of the other neighbors under the same roof."

Li said a photovoltaic system costs about 20 yuan per watt, which means users who want to be able to turn on their refrigerators and air conditioners at the same time have to spend 40,000 to 60,000 yuan on a system.

"Unless we can sell the extra electricity produced during the daytime back to the power grid, using photovoltaic systems will not be users' first choice," Li said.

Before October, users had to pay to connect their solar power generator to the power grid, and the cost of one network access point was as high as 420,000 yuan.

And State Grid Corp, China's largest State-owned power utility company, announced on Oct 26 that it will provide free connections for small, independent producers of photovoltaic solar electricity starting on Nov 1. The announcement was taken as being a boon to users of solar energy.

The announcement said State Grid will be responsible for covering the cost of the connections.

Tang Wenqian, deputy secretary-general of the Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association, said State Grid's new policy will not have a substantial effect on the photovoltaic market.

"State Grid should have helped people connect to its power grid," Tang said.

"The new announcement just shows the company's changing attitude, but big changes will only be possible after subsidy standards come out."

Currently, State Grid pays 1 yuan per kilowatt-hour for the electricity generated by photovoltaic systems. But Tang said the government should offer more subsidies to photovoltaic users.

"The photovoltaic system costs a lot of money, and without government subsidies, users will stick to the cheaper types of power — thermal power, for instance, " she said.

On Dec 19, the State Council held a meeting to discuss measures to boost the development of the solar industry.

Five policies won approvals at the meeting, including various ones that called for exploring the domestic solar-energy market, increasing government subsidies to solar energy users and encouraging more private users to connect their solar-power generators to the grid.

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