China Approves Nearly 23 GW of Solar Projects Based on Feed-in Tariff Mechanism

FiTs are in the range of RMB 0.2795 to RMB 0.5500


China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) has approved 22.78 GW of the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) based solar projects.

These solar PV projects are expected to be grid-connected by December 2019. They have been approved under China’s first national unified bidding for solar projects seeking feed-in-tariffs.

A total of 4,338 solar PV projects with a combined capacity of 24.55 GW were proposed to be developed, but only 3,921 projects totaling 22.78 GW have received the official approval. Apart from these, 417 proposed solar projects with a capacity of approximately 1.77 GW have not been approved.

Out of the approved projects, 366 are ground-mounted utility-scale solar projects with a total capacity of 18.12 GW. Moreover, 473 of them are distributed generation solar projects totaling 0.56 GW while 3,082 are self-generation or excess capacity solar projects totaling 4.10 GW.

The feed-in-tariffs approved range from RMB 0.2795 ($0.0406)/kWh to RMB 0.55 ($0.08)/kWh. The average submitted tariff was RMB 0.3281 ($0.0478)/kWh, and the official deadline of the approved 22.78 GW is set for December 31, 2019. If the grid connection takes place in 2020, the approved tariffs will be reduced by RMB 0.01 ($0.001)/kWh each quarter up to the second quarter of 2020. If solar PV projects are connected after June 30, 2020, the approved feed-in-tariff will be revoked, and the projects would stand canceled.

In May 2019, the Price Bureau of China’s National Development and Reform Commission had announced the level of solar FiT payments for large-scale projects. For the ease of implementation, the country had been broadly categorized into three regions: Region 1, 2, and 3.

In the 2019 bidding process, 23 provinces had participated. The most favored destination is Guizhou Province with more than 3.6 GW, followed by Shaanxi Province with more than 3 GW, and 13 other provinces, each with more than 1 GW to be installed. Gansu Province and Xinjiang Autonomous Region were not allowed to participate due to the prevailing grid curtailment issues. Heilongjiang, Jilin, Yunnan, and Hainan did not join this bidding process, mainly due to limited grid capacities.

According to Frank Haugwitz of Asia Europe Clean Energy (Solar) Advisory (AECEA), larger projects were allowed to submit competitive tariffs with the lowest at RMB 0.2795. “Given the 2019 results, it appears that the single most important evaluation criterion was the feed-in-tariff submitted by the developers. It is possible that during the 2020 bidding, other factors might be taken into account when evaluating submitted bids in an attempt to increase the share of distributed projects,” he added.

According to Frank’s communique, “In light of the 22.78 GW of feed-in-tariff supported projects approved, AECEA has increased its 2019 full-year guidance from 32-34 GW to 38-42 GW, thus still representing a decline of approximately 5-14% year-over-year. AECEA’s forecast takes into account the feed-in-tariff, grid-parity, residential, poverty alleviation, top-runner, and demonstration projects along ultra-high voltage long-distance transmission lines.

According to China’s National Renewable Energy Centre (CNREC) data, between January and May 2019, a total of 7.61 GW of solar PV projects were installed, representing a decrease of 44% year-over-year (YoY). Ground-mounted utility-scale projects amounted to 3.83 GW (+9% YoY), and distributed projects totaled 3.27 GW (-61% YoY). In May, only 1.43 GW of solar capacity was installed, a decline of 42% YoY. The CNREC estimates that in June, possibly 5 GW could be installed, leading to approximately 12.6 GW during the first half of 2019. Compared with the 24.30 GW capacity installed during the same period in 2018, this will represent a decrease of approximately 52% YoY.

China Solar Installations - 1H 2019 (GW)

At the end of May 2019, China was home to 182.07 GW of total installed solar power generation capacity comprising 127.68 GW (70.2%) of ground-mounted utility-scale projects and 54.39 GW (29.8%) of distributed generation.

Mercom recently reported that China installed 5.2 GW of solar PV capacity in the first quarter of 2019. When compared to Q1 2018, this was nearly a 40% decline in the installation numbers in which China had installed 9.65 GW of solar PV capacity.

Image credit: Trina Solar