China’s National Energy Administration
– a short overview
One of the key players in shaping the present and future Chinese energy system is the National Energy Administration (NEA), and it is therefore vital to understand it´s mandate and priorities. This report is aiming to provide background information in order to support continued discussions on strengthening the bilateral Sino- Swedish cooperation in the area of energy.
Despite the growing importance of energy issues on China’s domestic and foreign policy agendas, the country’s bureaucracy has long lacked the capacity to manage the energy sector effectively. China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) was established in March 2008 as an attempt to create an effective national-level energy institution. NEA is an agency primarily responsible for the development of policy instruments, standards, laws and regulations, as well as for monitoring of the energy sector. Together with NDRC, it is one of the main players regulating the energy market in China.
In 2013 the State Electricity Regulatory Commission (SERC) was merged into the National Energy Administration (NEA), thereby reducing administrative overlap. The inclusion of electricity regulation under the NEA’s umbrella reflects the Chinese leadership’s desire to increase regulatory efficiency within the sector. However, NEA still lacks the authority to resolve disputes among more powerful actors.
In its national office in Beijing, the NEA employs 240-person staff, the total administrative headcount nationwide is about 740. NEA’s authority was enhanced by the appointment of Wu Xinxiong, NDRC vice chair, as director in 2013. During the spring of 2014 several corruption charges has been made towards officials in the NEA, which attracted much public attention.
NEA has announced a set of ten goals and research issues, primarily supporting the achievement of the goals included in the 12th Five Year Plan for Energy Development, announced in January 2013. NEA’s Planning Department published in January 2014 a list of topics that need to be approached during the 13th Five Year Plan, suggesting future priorities.
NEA promotes international cooperation on energy. It negotiates and signs bilateral and multilateral agreements with foreign energy authorities and with the IEA. Given the top-down management common in China, areas with political urgency become naturally prioritized. Bilateral agreements can be signed also on provincial and local levels, with the authorization of national government institutions. Countries that NEA is currently cooperating with include France (nuclear), Japan (smart-grid), US (clean energy) and Denmark (renewable energy).
For an international partner, close collaboration with NEA is expected to provide early information about prioritized areas, as well as to facilitate direct involvement in projects, pilot studies, standard development, industrial partnerships, etc. An enhanced bilateral agreement with NEA could be an advantage also for projects financed by other actors, since such projects can be well anchored with the development plans and relevant stakeholders. Judging from previous international cooperation projects, identifying key partners, joint commitment, close and continuous dialogue, as well as focus on a few collaboration areas of mutual interest seems to be a recipe for success.