Clean Power Transition

China’s power sector now is the world single largest coal consumer and as a result is the biggest CO2 emitter. The world’s largest power sector will have a significant impact on how China, and to a large extent, the world - uses energy and addresses climate change. My Ph.D. dissertation explores the roadmaps to achieve high penetration of renewable energy and low carbon power supply in China where coal dominates current supply mix. I work with the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) SWITCH team (Prof. Daniel Kammen, James Nelson, Josiah Johnston, Ana Mileva, Anne-Perrine Avrin) to develop and expand SWITCH-China (a loose acronym for Solar, Wind, Hydro, and Conventional generation and Transmission Investment) model to analyze least-cost generation, storage, and transmission capacity expansion for China under various policy and cost scenarios, especially with high penetration of renewables. SWITCH uses an unprecedented combination of spatial and temporal resolution with extensive data mining to design realistic power systems and plan capacity expansion to meet policy goals and carbon emission reduction targets at minimal cost. SWITCH provides a useful tool to simulate future scenarios, however, modeling is not enough to understand China’s energy reality. We explore the energy landscape change from political, economic and institutional perspectives beyond technology. Unless we get prices and policies right, a cost-effective clean-energy transition will not happen.