Towards a sustainable distributed energy system in China: Decision-making for strategies and policy implications

Logo: Institute for Security and Development Policy (ISDP)
Commentaries and Op-eds December, 2019, Energy, Sustainability and Society

This paper was written by Ruojue Lin, Yue Liu, Yi Man, and Jingzhen Ren. The full paper is available here.


Background: The conflict between the Chinese fossil fuel-based economy and worsening environmental conditions requires further research to be carried out. Due to their clean, highly-efficient and flexible properties, distributed energy systems (DESs) have become a global research focus in the field of energy conservation. China, as the largest coal-fired energy user and highest power consumer in the world, has to conduct further research and apply the DESs to resolve the conflict. This study aims to provide a comprehensive review of DES development in China as well as improvement suggestions for the development of DESs by use of scientific analysis.

Methods: The analysis of strengths-weaknesses-opportunities threats (SWOT) was adapted for the analysis of improvement strategies. The directions for how to improve the application of these strategies were selected by the prioritization method of analytic hierarchy processes (AHP) and evaluated by the best-worst method (BWM). The suggestions were provided according to the ranks figured out by AHP and BWM. Five enablers were selected from the respective economic, environmental, technological and social aspects for participating in this analysis.

Results: Resulting from the SWOT analysis, capital investment, technology development and regulation completeness are three aspects of strategies summarized as SO strategies, ST strategies, WO strategies and WT strategies. The research perspectives of DESs that are suggested for investment, technology development and regulation completeness are illustrated by AHP and BWM. The results show that the reduction of solid particle emissions, the improvement of generation reliability, the improvement of the production rate, the reduction of production costs, the improvement of on-site safety, the fulfilment of electricity demand, the reduction of noxious gas emissions as well as the improvement of energy efficiency need to be carried out for the sake of environmental protection and quality of DES generation in China.

Conclusions: There are high potentials for China to further develop and apply DES approaches. The direction of current development might be set to solve three problematic aspects, which are capital investment, technology development and regulation completeness.