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UPDATE 1-China to spend $44 bln by 2012 on UHV power lines
(Adds comment on exporting UHV, background)
By Chen Aizhu
BEIJING May 21 (Reuters) - China plans to spend 300 billion yuan ($44 billion) by 2012 on ultra-high voltage (UHV) power lines, 50 percent more than an earlier plan, a top grid official said, fast-tracking an ambitious plan to improve power supply security.
China, which started operating in January a pilot UHV line running 640 kilometres across central China, is now laying another two lines each spanning more than 2,000 km from the hydropower-rich southwest to the wealthy east coast.
"We are raising the investment. We hope UHV power projects can play a bigger role, so we are going to build in bigger scale," Shu Yinbiao, vice president of State Grid Corp of China, the country's major power transmission firm, told reporters.
China, anxious to fix its rickety and fragmented grid after years of underinvestment, is the first country to apply in a wide scale the UHV technology that was developed decades ago but applied only in Japan and the former Soviet Union.
SGCC officials said on Thursday that the 5.7 billion yuan ($838 million) pilot project connecting the northern coal-producing province of Shanxi with central Hubei, has been running in a stable and safe manner.
Beijing, a strong backer for the plan, is keen to see its grids weather the kind of severe snow storm that paralysed much of south China's power lines in early 2008, and wants to avoid the blackouts that sent China's oil imports soaring in 2004.
SGCC estimated that investment on UHV may top 600 billion yuan by 2020, said vice president Shu.
Such ambitious spending has drawn foreign equipment suppliers such as Switzerland's ABB AB and Germany's Siemens AG, though the pilot project uses nearly 90 percent of Chinese-made facilities, officials said.
Shu also projected that UHV power lines run by SGCC would transmit 300 gigawatts of electricity by 2020 -- more than 20 percent of the estimated national power capacity of 1,600 GW by that time.
China, already the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide, plans to generate 35 percent of the 1,600 GW power by 2020 from clean energy sources, including hydropower, solar and wind, Liu Zhenya, SGCC's president told a UHV seminar on Thursday.
By taking the lead in UHV application, both of 1,000-kilovolt (kv) alternating and 800-kv direct current lines, China may soon see itself export the technology and equipment, though UHV suits mostly countries with a vast land mass and a single power regulatory framework.
Shu said India is one of the first such countries that have revised their grid plan after China launced its pilot programme, adding that Brazil and South Africa could also follow suit.
An executive with a north China-based power equipment manufacturer said his company recently signed an order to supply India UHV transformers worth 2 billion yuan. (Editing by Ben Tan)
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