What is the significance of sending power from west to east


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The west-to-east power transmission pattern formed in the past started 30 years ago (1986) and developed on a large scale 20 years ago (1999)-catalyzed by the “Ertan Hydropower Station’s consumption”, which has been used in a series of large hydropower long-distance projects. The delivery has formed a huge scale.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the eastern region was faced with insufficient unit capacity and large-scale power shortages; the western region faced the problems of economic development, widening regional gaps, and insufficient investment. West-to-East power transmission through the central government's investment in power plants and transmission lines, the solution to these two problems is directed towards potential improvements. But, basically, this is the story of the big development of renewable energy, especially wind power and photovoltaics before the outbreak in 2005.

The author's previous articles have repeatedly mentioned the huge implications of wind power photovoltaic fluctuating energy to the optimal structure and flexibility requirements of the system. Its most important feature is that the net load of the system (the total load minus the scenery, because their marginal cost is zero and priority dispatching) will become less and less, so that the base load will completely disappear. Therefore, the coarse-grained scheduling scale and stable delivery are incompatible with the characteristics of renewable energy, and the low-time resolution scheduling method of horizontally splitting the load curve has become infeasible.

Quite simply, if a province in the east has a load of 100 million, and if it develops a scenery of 150 million by itself, then the system will have a lot of hours and face the situation of local over-generation, which makes it basically safe and secure to accept incoming calls. Technical and economic difficulties.

The pattern of power transmission from west to east formed in the past often has the meaning of "a game of chess in the whole country" and "national use of resources throughout the country" beyond the economic level. For example, a book titled "China's Energy Strategy and Policy" mentioned that the resources in the west are national, so they must be physically transported out for use, and the west and east must be coordinated. Otherwise, it may be expressed as "due to the distribution of energy, rich areas rely on energy extraction to develop rapidly, while barren areas are struggling due to lack of energy, so we must analyze from the overall perspective."

In the era of renewable energy, this mindset still exists to a considerable extent, requiring that "renewable energy is allocated a national chess game", which is analogous to minerals and other resources. For example, in 2015, the National Energy Administration issued a document on the 13th Five-Year Plan "Energy 13th Five-Year Plan to Realize Nine Overall Plans" and pointed out:

Some provinces are reserved for their own use because energy resources are cheap, instead of exporting them. Some provinces don’t need resources from other provinces if they don’t lack this year. This is not in accordance with the law. This must be considered at the height of a game of chess across the country, that is, the overall planning between the central and local governments, and the overall planning between local planning and central planning.

So, do the abundant renewable resources in the west have original value? Do they have to be physically used throughout the country to form the so-called "large-scale allocation"? This article discusses this issue from the perspective of original value.

Electricity has only use value, and its original value is significantly weaker than various minerals

Philosophically, the discussion about the existence of social origin or intrinsic value (Intrinsic Value) and how to define it is undoubtedly a brain-burning, and even the difficulty of defining language.

Intrinsic value in finance is defined by the reference system of prices. Intrinsic value is not the current price, but a price measurement that reflects its fundamentals (meaning future income).

In economics, price is basically equal to (or characterizing) value, that is, the cost of a commodity or service avoided (rather than its own cost), so anything can be valuable and replaceable, with a limited price.

Ecologically, the natural ecological environment often means infinite value, that is, it has original value; therefore, any damage is often unreasonable, and only by liberating the environment can humans liberate themselves.

The value of precious metals such as gold is often recognized by people, and has even become a reference benchmark for currencies in a period of history, regardless of how their actual prices fluctuate. After the great development of renewable energy, electric vehicles, and energy storage, rare earth and transition metals involved in wind turbines, photovoltaic panels, lithium batteries and other equipment have become the focus of increasing attention. Discussions on the stability and safety of their supply exceed traditional petroleum Security trend.

Compared with these metals, it is obvious that electricity does not depend on the specific environment and the value of the application is much smaller. This can be seen from two facts: First, the sources of electricity are diverse, and any non-fossil energy, mechanical energy, chemical energy such as fuel combustion, nuclear energy, etc. can be converted into electricity. Even if there is a lack of local primary energy, the fuel problem can be solved through transportation to a large extent. Second, the market price of electricity can be negative. This shows that at certain moments, more electricity can avoid costs and point to a lower system cost. To

Electricity only has use value that depends on a specific environment (such as changing demand). Whether there is original value, we can often understand more vividly by comparing renewable energy and rare metal resources. For example, niobium is a metal, 85% is found in a mineral deposit in Brazil, and the remainder is in another mine in Brazil and Canada. And electricity can be said to be available everywhere.

The high cost and reliability of power transmission make it incomparable with the oil and gas industry

Renewable energy does not have "origin" value, so it does not necessarily need to be deployed on a large scale from the socialist utopian perspective of "good things we share together". From the perspective of economic value, due to its remote location and the need for extremely high-cost grid infrastructure, and the lack of effective demand in nearby areas (in the short to medium term), its economic value will also be very low. The necessity of transportation often only exists in certain regions, time periods and scenarios.

This characteristic is also proved by the shape of the world's energy infrastructure and prices. The price of oil in the world is basically the same, with little fluctuation (compared to the price fluctuation of electricity several times a day), and the basic pattern of global interconnection has long been formed; natural gas was initially gaseous, and pipeline investment was huge, but the emergence of LNG made it possible Transportability and storage performance have been greatly improved, so that a world-wide pipeline gas and LNG unified market (gas-to-gas competition) pattern is accelerating formation, although prices in various regions will vary due to transportation costs. Electricity is basically and will continue to maintain the shape of the regional market forever.

It is a bad idea to strengthen cross-regional cooperation through "transmission lines"

"The unbalanced energy distribution and unbalanced consumption have determined that my country must optimize the allocation of resources on a larger scale and give full play to the power transmission function of the grid." "my country's coal resources are mainly distributed in the western and northern regions, and hydropower resources Mainly concentrated in the southwest region, the eastern region is short of primary energy resources, but the demand for electricity is large and concentrated. The reverse distribution of energy resources and electricity demand determines the necessity of power transmission from west to east." Similar discourses have appeared thousands of times in past media, online articles, government documents, and even academic articles, but there are at least four logical jumps in this sentence.

First, compared to its own demand for energy resources in the east, it may be less than its own demand, especially fossil energy. However, there is no binary distribution among them, but the quality is worse, which is much better than some countries (such as photovoltaics in Germany), and some resources are even better than the west, such as offshore wind power. Moreover, the quality of resources must be based on standards for utilization, not standards for power generation.

Second, if the imbalance of distribution and consumption is a descriptive judgment of the past, why can’t the imbalance be reduced or even eliminated through industrial transfer in the future? In fact, the principle of "comparative advantage" is the most basic common sense of industrial layout in the economics field. There is no problem that development cannot be achieved without energy advantages. On the contrary, the "resource curse" with abundant resources and economic imbalance is very common. The east does not have the advantage of energy resources. Why should this imbalance be maintained or even exacerbated in the future? Why does the adjustment of the industrial structure have no role?

Third, even if the east is the energy consumption center in the future, why can't it rely on imports? If in-situ balance is a bad idea, why must “home balance” be necessary? Indonesia to the southeast coast is much cheaper than Xinjiang to the coast. In fact, if there are no arbitrary restrictions on policies, a larger amount of coal imports along the coast should be a more economically efficient way to balance the energy of various regions in our country.

Fourth, even if such a large-scale transfer in and out is needed for a long time, why not use railways, highways, oil and gas pipelines, or even trains with batteries or trucks with LNG to compensate for this imbalance? The above costs are too high or the safety and stability are too poor, why use the power grid?

Large and thick high-voltage power grids, especially base-load power transmission based on ensuring "line utilization", have become a huge obstacle for the power system in the central and eastern regions to increase flexibility and develop distributed renewable energy.

Implicitly, the previous part of the discussion frequently used "a large-scale optimal allocation of resources" as the starting point, trying to show its economic implications for strengthening regional ties and cross-regional cooperation, and even hinting at a unified and highly cohesive country like my country from time to time. The political meaning of a great power. Economic and political gains are undoubtedly the most important, but it is a bad idea to achieve it through the "transmission line". It does not necessarily work, and it also means the inefficiency caused by high costs. If people believe that the era of renewable energy is the future, then this base-load power transmission that seriously affects the flexibility of the system and the power interconnection over long distances (low utilization and high cost) must be eliminated.

Transition from planning thinking to market

The pattern of power transmission from west to east formed in the past has a strong historical path dependence, and the traces of "severe power shortage in the central and eastern regions" are heavy.

The lack of electricity is not a reason to obtain electricity privileges, it needs to bid higher. If a power plant in the west is sold for 0.26 yuan to the local, but only 0.25 yuan to the remote end, why should it choose the shortest distance and why should it use additional or even build new grid resources? This is exactly the story that happened in the past, which is prominently reflected in the Three Gorges. Wait for water and electricity to be delivered. The electricity prices that the Three Gorges sells to various provinces are all different, in a highly segmented market; the price of electricity sold to Jiangxi, which is closer to itself, is lower than that of Shanghai. There is an urgent need for a more transparent understanding of the wiring and scheduling of the system.

With more power transmission lines, the public is drowning in repeated calculations and publicity of clean, coal consumption and pollution reduction figures. The price is so geometric, whether it effectively reduces the cost of local electricity consumption, but it is difficult to find out in public channels.

What's more, through vague and plausible logic, asking the local power supply in the east to send power to the base load in the west to "peak shaving", in fact, the local unit must give up the power generation market share for external power. This lack of economic values—why not adjust them in the other way—means a serious loss of overall economic efficiency and a challenge to the efficient balancing method of the power system—local balance priority.


Thorough, open, transparent, descriptive discussions based on data, especially price and operating data, to understand that the power transmission from West to East was correct at the strategic level in the past, but the operation level and links have formed huge distortions and extreme trends. Urgent task.

In the era of the great development of renewable energy, it is necessary to abandon the ideological obstacles that are rich in "renewable energy" in the west and also have original value, and to restore the discussion to the problem of economic allocation efficiency under the premise of a basic unified market, and take the market's decisive role as the The approach is to use the largest overall cake as the basic value standard to get rid of the so-called "clean electricity" flicker-from the user's point of view, all electricity is the same clean, and there is no difference between coal electricity and clean electricity. Use the relative value of renewable energy to replace electricity as a benchmark to determine the necessity and basic method of large-scale deployment.

The investments that have occurred in the past and the large-capacity lines built are already sunk costs economically and do not need to be considered in future decisions. This is economic logic. However, the actual political logic is just the opposite. Once completed, it must be fully utilized, otherwise the relevant political and even legal implications cannot be bearable. It is this kind of political logic that needs to be prevented in particular now. By all means to ensure the "high utilization" of these routes, to verify that the previous decisions are correct, this will come at a huge price for the further inflexibility of the power operation at the transmitting end and the receiving end. Without this change, China's so-called smart grid, Internet of Things, Industry 4.0, and digital development of energy systems can only be castles in the sky.

This is an unavoidable issue in the coming period and discussions on the energy development 14th Five-Year Plan and mid- and long-term planning. (Author: Zhangshu Wei)

This article is transferred from China Coal News Network

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