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Society

Virtual power plants gain steam amid China's rising power demand

These plants can also play a vital part in China's green energy shift

With economic activity picking up, virtual power plants are gathering steam in China as it seeks solutions to the increasing power demand.

"A virtual power plant is not really for generating electricity, but a system for managing energy," said Yang Kun, executive president of the China Electricity Council.

"Installed in heavy consumers such as factories, it controls electrical appliances, including air conditioners and lights. Without affecting normal operation, it helps maintain the balance of electrical supply and demand through accurate power management," Yang said.

Traditionally, a city would build more power plants to solve power strain. Although able to increase peak-hour supply, the expanded capacity may stay idle during off-peak hours, which are much longer.

A virtual power plant, in comparison, aims at cutting the usage of electricity when supply is insufficient, thereby stabilizing electric operation on the demand side.

Yang added that virtual power plants can also play a vital part in China's green energy shift. They facilitate the distributed energy resources interconnection and maximize the utilization of renewable electricity, amid national efforts to boost the clean, low-carbon grid transformation.

China set about piloting virtual power plants in the 2016-2020 period and has put continued efforts in promoting the utilization. For instance, Shanghai has launched a project linking commercial buildings around its bustling city center. The State Grid's Hebei subsidiary put a similar program into operation in 2019 to shore up the grid system for the Beijing Winter Olympics.

Although at a preliminary stage of development, virtual power plants are expected to enjoy opportunities from China's carbon-cutting goals and thriving renewable energy industry, said Wang Peng, a researcher with North China Electric Power University.

China has announced that it will strive to peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, as reported by Xinhua News Agency, a partner of TV BRICS.

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