Cai Guoxiong is a member of the 11th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. He shared his opinions about how to build low-carbon cities, mainly in the field of electric power consumption.

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China Daily reporters interviewed Cai Guoxiong, a member of the 11th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). He is also the deputy chief engineer of the China Electric Power Research Institute under State Grid Corp. He shared his opinions about how to build low-carbon cities, mainly in the field of electric power consumption.

Q: Are you bringing any proposals to the upcoming political advisory session?

A: Yes. Since I’m a member of the CPPCC, every year we make some proposals for the purpose of helping government make the policy more reasonable. So this year, I bring the proposal related to the electric price. All of us know the electric price usually has two different kinds. The first is the tiered electric pricing system, and the other is time-of-use pricing system. The two systems are completely different. Last year I made a proposal, to say, time-of-use pricing system is more reasonable. So it is better to use the time-of-use pricing system in China instead of using the tiered electric pricing system. But after one year, I feel there are a lot of people still trying to use the tiered electric pricing system. So this year, I made a proposal to combine the two pricing systems together. Let the people and the government to use the combined pricing system. It is much better. So this year, I made this proposal.

Q: According to recent media reports, large-scale construction of China’s modernized electricity network − or smart grid − is slated to begin in 2011. As an expert in electric power, please tell us something about the construction of China’s smart grid. How does it differ from a traditional electricity network?

A: Smart power system. Smart grid. What is smart? It means, nowadays, the electric power system is not smart, (that is) to say, it’s a little foolish. The reason is all of us feel that the electricity comes from a power plant. Power plants generate electricity and transmit to your home, and you use the electricity. It seems a matter of course. If we say the users not only use the electricity, but sometimes, if we are possible to generate electricity, is it possible for electric power system to accept this kind of energy? Nowadays, it is not, since it is not so smart. It is a very simple system. Power plants generate electricity and you use. (If) You try to generate electric power, it is impossible. So when the smart grid is completed, then this kind of thing can be solved.

Q: How will the smart grid help reduce the country’s energy consumption?

A: Energy consumption, actually, we can do right now. Of course, if we use the smart grid, it is possible to let the energy consumption (become) more convenient and also possible to receive wind power and sun power more efficiently. But nowadays, we are also (able) to use a lot of methods to save energy, such as we have discussed. We can use night energy, electricity generated at night, to save a lot of energy.

Q: How will the smart grid benefit people’s daily lives, and how will it affect the operation of power companies?

A: For power companies, it is possible to adjust the electric generation from day time and night time more evenly. For people, their lives, by using the smart grid, it’s possible to– you get the electricity from the power plant, and also generate electricity and sell this electricity to the power grid.

Q: In some developed countries, every one can install solar panels on the roofs of their homes. The power generated from those panels could satisfy their own needs, and the excess power could be submitted to the smart grid and sold. So is it possible to have this kind of model in China − one in which everyone can use the power generated at their homes and possibly make profits from it?

A: Of course. Other countries can do that. Why can’t Chinese do that? This depends on the policy, but (it does) not depend on the techniques. If the policy allows people to generate electricity and let the power corporation buy electricity from the people, if we adopted this kind of policy, then it is possible to sell electricity (generated) by people. And in China, it’s also like what the foreign countries did.

Q: What kind of policies will or should our government put in place to go with the new smart grid? What kind of policies could be made to encourage citizens to reduce their power consumption? And what policies are applicable to industrial power consumption?

A: You just said the power electricity consumption. Of course, the consumption of electricity is directly related to energy consumption, but it doesn’t mean reducing electricity usage is equal to the energy saving. For example, when we use the tiered electric pricing system, the people tend to consider using a certain amount of electricity. But after that, when the price gets higher, then I don’t use the electricity, but instead, use natural gas. But all of us know that natural gas is also energy. So the policy, what kind of policy you adopt, the government adopts, will lead people to use what kind of methods to save money but not save energy. So the policy is very important. If we adopt the time-of-use pricing system, then people tend to consider how to save energy and how to save money. Saving money may be the first thing people consider. We can imagine the people consider the electric price at night is cheap, and then they use night electricity and use the day time electricity less. So at the power plant we are possible to generate electricity fluently, not day time very high and night time very low. We can evenly generate electricity. It will lead to a low-carbon life, and the total energy can be saved.

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