Connect Electric Vehicles to a Clean Power Grid in China

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China’s electric vehicle market is growing rapidly. Government officials view EVs as a way to establish a world-class auto industry while combating climate change and cleaning up the air. Yet the vehicles are only as clean as the power that charges them. Fueling millions of cars with electricity from coal-fired power plants would dramatically increase carbon emissions and other dangerous pollution.

NRDC is helping China prepare its electric grid to power EVs with clean, renewable energy by working with partners at the city, provincial, and national levels. We emphasize that vehicle emissions should not simply be shifted from the tailpipe of the car to the smokestack of a dirty power plant. Instead, smart policies can minimize the impact EVs have on the power sector and boost utilization of renewable power and energy-storage technology.

One strategy, for instance, is to encourage people to charge their cars when power demand is low, such as during the night, instead of in the middle of the day when factories and businesses are most active. China is generating record-breaking amounts of wind power, but the wind doesn’t blow all the time, and the grid isn’t yet prepared to store energy for later use. If drivers have incentives to charge during times of peak wind energy supply, they can fuel their cars with clean power and China can make the most of its renewable energy potential.

China is in the midst of reforming its power sector, and NRDC and our partners are working to weave smart electric vehicle policies into the grid of the future. We host roundtables on power-sector reform for leaders in government, utilities, and universities. We also share takeaways from our experience helping California design EV incentives and demand-side management programs. And we present best practices that have allowed U.S. utilities to smooth out power loads and improve grid operation and efficiency.

NRDC is also running pilot projects in Chinese cities to demonstrate that electric vehicles can expand the use of renewable energy, improve local air quality, and reduce climate impacts. This work follows our proven approach in China: partnering with local leaders to test new policies at the city or provincial level and then adapting and strengthening them along the way. As we gain support from industry and other key sectors, we then bring these clean energy solutions to the national level.