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China launches two power trading exchanges

[BEIJING] China launched two power trading exchanges on Tuesday, in line with the government's efforts to free up electricity prices in the country, although some experts see the move as insufficient to reshape the sector.

China wants to eventually get its dominant grid operators - the State Grid Corp of China and China Southern Power Grid - to segregate their transmission and distribution businesses. It has already launched pilot reform programmes in seven provinces that allow generators to make sales deals directly with consumers.

The two new exchanges, one in the capital Beijing and the other in the southern manufacturing hub of Guangzhou, aim to ramp up cross-regional trading and the use of clean power, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said in a statement posted on its website on Tuesday.

The exchanges would offer open and transparent electricity transaction services under government supervision, it said, adding that China's two big state-owned grid operators have controlling stakes in the exchanges.

The Beijing exchange announced its first deal on Tuesday, selling 9,000 gigawatt hours (GWh) of power to 30 users in Shangdong province, according to a company press release.

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The new exchanges, which are taking over the existing long-term bulk trade contracts from the two grid companies, will, however, not be able to offer spot and futures contracts soon, said market sources with knowledge of the process.

The State Grid Corp wholly owns the Beijing exchange and China Southern Power Grid owns 66.7 per cent of the Guangzhou one, according to the NDRC statement. Details on the other shareholders were not disclosed.

"While this will not overturn the dominance of the grid companies initially ... the aim is to involve more participants later and that could eventually help free up bids," said a power researcher, who did not want to be named as he was not authorised to speak to media.

The exchanges will offer licences to trading firms as well as formulate trading rules and contracts, the NDRC added.

More than 250 companies have been set up in the country to sell electricity after China allowed private investment in its wholesale and retail power markets in 2015, the state-owned Economic Information Daily said on Tuesday.

China had 1,507 gigawatts of installed capacity at the end of 2015, the country's National Energy Administration said in January, with solar capacity up 54 per cent on year.

However, power consumption grew just 0.5 per cent last year, the slowest pace in decades, due to a slowdown in China's economic growth, fuelling calls for increased competition in the power sector through regulatory reform.

The Beijing exchange will develop financial power trading "in the future", the planning commission statement said.


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