IEEE Electrification Magazine - March 2015 - 37

details its progress, experience, and lessons; introduces
national and local policies; and discusses future development trends. The aim of this article is to find how China
has achieved this feat and what lessons are there for other
developing countries.

background of rural electrification in china
Chinese Development Characteristics

IMAGE COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

achievement is by no means insignificant and has not
been without struggle. The bottom-up approach, especially the exploitation of small hydropower (SHP), has been
most successful in rural electrification.
The power grid in China has experienced a substantial
increase in recent decades. With the largest total installed
capacity, China is also tapping into renewable energy.
According to the Renewable 2014 Global Status Report by the
Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century
(REN21), by the end of 2013, China was the top country for
total installed renewable power capacity as well as for nonhydro capacity. China ranks first in photovoltaic (PV), hydropower, and wind power installed capacity as well as investment in renewable power and fuels. Renewable energy,
along with the advent of the microgrid, is paving a new way
for rural electrification in China.
This article summarizes the background of Chinese
rural electrification, including the history and process;

China's topography ranges from mountainous deserts and
plateaus in the west to plains, deltas, and hills in the east,
and it is hard to give an exact description of the rural environment in China as regions dramatically differ from one
to another in geographical features, development stages,
and developing modes. The imbalance between east and
west in electrification is tremendous. There are counties
with local industrialized enterprise in eastern China that
reached the 100% electrification rate in the 1990s, e.g.,
Shandong Province reached the 100% rural electrification
rate in 1996. This province lies in the China North Plain,
where rural populations mostly engage in agriculture and
rural electrification can be more easily achieved by grid
extension. Today, most of the unelectrified population is
located in western China on higher-altitude and more rugged terrain, characterized by high mountains and running
rivers. The average height of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is
4,000 m above sea level with harsh weather conditions;
northwest China has far more deserts and grassland than
fertile lands. Some minority groups in these areas lead a
nomadic lifestyle with sparsely distributed households,
and construction of grid extension is both costly and dangerous (Figure 1).
Although the terrain is perilous for construction, western China is especially abundant in small hydro resources,
solar power, wind power, coal, etc. SHP has been explicitly
exploited since the 1960s in Sichuan, Guizhou, and Tibet,
many in off-grid forms to supply the rural population. The
wind and solar resources distributed in western China will
not only support the rural electrification there but western
China is also foreseen to be the future national renewable
energy center for the whole country.

Brief History, Three Development Phases
For over 50 years, rural electrification has gone through a
long history in China, which has expanded three phases
based on each phase's changing economy and industrial
structure (Table 1). For a detailed history, see "Progress and
Major Policies of Chinese Rural Electrification."
The first phase is roughly from 1949 to 1977, during
which rural electrification underwent slow but steady
development. Because of limited funding and attention, the
government then focused more on large commercial energy development for urban areas and industries, while rural
communities were encouraged to be self-reliant. Under this
guidance of self-reliance, small mines and SHP plants were
soon developed and provided energy to rural populations.
IEEE Electrific ation Magazine / March 2 0 1 5

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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of IEEE Electrification Magazine - March 2015

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