Chinese power company shows way forward with energy storage solutions
At a time when developing renewable and green energy has become a global priority, Chinese power generation company Huaneng Group's "go global" strategy has been hailed as a "success" story.
Founded in 1989, the company launched multiple power projects in countries including the United Kingdom, Singapore, Australia, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Pakistan, combined with coal-fired power plants, gas-fired power plants, hydropower stations and battery storage stations.
During the last two decades, Huaneng's total installed capacity of wholly-owned and majority-owned power plants increased more than 10 times, exceeding 200GW by 2021, and total assets rose more than 13-fold to 1.31 trillion yuan ($18.82 trillion).
Guo Jingyu, UK office chief of the China Huaneng Group, ascribed the fast growth of the Chinese economy over the last twenty years to the company's rapid overseas expansion.
"Thanks to China's continuous and rapid economic growth, Huaneng developed significantly at the beginning of the 21st century, which gives us more confidence to participate in the global market and the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative," Guo said. "The company's overseas sector has been profitable for three consecutive years by the end of 2021."
The latest Fortune Global 500 list shows Huaneng ranked 215th, up 33 places from last year. The company said its annual power generation and operating revenue in 2021 increased by 9.4 percent and 22 percent, respectively, year-on-year.
Through its rapid growth, Guo said Huaneng has built up extensive experience on the management of power plants including project development, operation and maintenance, technical upgrade, and renewable technologies.
Christopher Bovis, a professor of international business law at the University of Hull in the United Kingdom, said: "Huaneng is a success story of China's internationalisation strategy, especially in the sector of energy. This is not coincidental. China has realized that industrial policies in many jurisdictions link environmental sustainability with energy production and distribution.
"The big picture, which emerges out of examining Huaneng, is the role of China in global political and economic leadership because of free trade, balanced with responsible global political and economic leadership which reflects on sustainability," he added.
The company has made great strides in the UK. Its battery energy storage project, located in Minety, in southwest England, has been hailed as a landmark of China-Britain green development cooperation by the top Chinese diplomat in the UK.
The Minety project is touted as Europe's largest lithium-ion battery storage system to date. The facility stores electricity from the national grid at times of low demand and feeds it back when demand increases.
In recent years, China-UK cooperation on clean energy and low-carbon technology has become a highlight of pragmatic collaboration between the two countries.
On touring the Minety site, Zheng Zeguang, China's ambassador to the UK, described it as "a typical environment-friendly project and a landmark of China-UK green development cooperation, with world-leading energy storage technology from China and unique safety, peak-shaving, and intensification features to meet the actual needs of new energy power development in the UK".
Acknowledging climate change and environmental degradation as pressing threats to economic prosperity, China has pledged its intention to promote sustainable development linked to emissions reduction.
Bovis believes China's role in creating the environment for Huaneng success "focuses on the application of governance model for responsive and responsible political and economic leadership, which insists on the need to promote sustainable development".
He added: "The key benefits for China and other emerging economies to work together to combat climate change and to promote sustainable development, including climate responsible production methods, compliance with international treaty obligations, and global and regional leadership for emissions reduction."
Noting the UK is one of the countries that first advocated net-zero, Guo said Britain has demonstrated responsibility in addressing global climate change and is confident that Huaneng, as an experienced power industry investor, could act as a bridge for the development of the Chinese and British economies that complement each other.
As China has rich experience in the construction of novel, clean and low-carbon energy systems, UK's renewable energy system can benefit from China's technological and manufacturing advantages in the construction of wind power, photovoltaic and other new energy projects, Guo said.
He added the company aims to integrate advanced Chinese technology to improve the flexibility of the power grid in the UK and is planning to develop various kinds of energy storage projects, such air compression energy storage, and green hydrogen.
Chris Rudd, deputy vice-chancellor and head of the Singapore campus of Australia's James Cook University, said: "It is widely accepted that decarbonizing utility supplies in the UK is more urgent than ever before and that intermittent green energy sources such as wind, tide and solar are the only realistic future.
"Transmission, storage and smart-grid solutions all need integrating to provide local solutions that are scalable and configurable for domestic and industrial users," he said. "Huaneng's evident capability to implement large scale storage will be a turnkey solution for those Western economies with the capacity to transition."