Power Towards the Future

China witnessed tremendous achievements in infrastructure construction during the ninth Five-Year Plan period (1996-2000).

Thanks to a total investment of 610.4 billion yuan(US$73.5 billion) in 1996-99, the power industry is no longer a bottleneck restricting the nation's development.

By the end of this year, the annual total capacity of the country's generators will be 315 million kilowatts.

This year they are expected to actually generate 1,300 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity.

This is a 45 percent increase in capacity, and a 30 percent increase in actual consumption on 1995.

To date, China has established six inter-provincial grids along with five independent provincial power grids which together provide electricity to most parts of the nation.

Automatic control systems have been widely adopted by power companies. With advanced technology, the electricity companies have been able to considerably improve the power supply.

Meanwhile the upgrading of rural power grids is well under way.

The government will have spent 190 billion yuan(US$22.9 billion)upgrading rural grids in 2,400 counties by the end of next year.

So far, 108 billion yuan(US$13 billion) has been spent. The grid renovation has greatly cut down the price of electricity, which in turn led to higher consumption. In 1999, the daily electricity consumption in rural areas of Jiangsu Province increased by 9.6 percent on the same period of last year.

Reform in the power sector has been carried out step by step.

The government has ended the unauthorized collection of power-related fees in rural areas in a move to equalize electricity prices in towns and cities.

The central government is considering removing grids and big power plants from government control, thereby creating a more competitive environment for power producers. Power plants will have to sell electricity to power grids through a bidding process.

Foreign companies are allowed to run plants in China, which diversifies funding sources.

Meanwhile, the coal sector has had to restrict investment because there is too much coal on the market.

During the ninth Five-Year Plan period, investment in the coal industry will total 73.5 billion yuan(US$8.8 billion), 60 billion yuan(US$7.2 billion)less than planned.

With the development of technology, China is capable of operating large open pits and mining areas. Technology has been used in the production process to protect the environment and ease oil shortages.

China has also joined hands with foreign companies to tap its coal resources, especially methane gas found on the coal beds. In the ninth Five-Year Plan period, the oil and natural gas industries have made rapid progress.

The total output of oil and natural gas are estimated to reach 798 million tons and 116.5 billion cubic meters respectively in this period, both the largest five-year-production since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

In 1999, the proportion of oil and gas in the country's energy consumption as a whole grew from 1995's 17.5 and 1.8 percent respectively to 23.4 and 2.8 percent respectively.

China has tried to explore oil abroad. At the moment, it is capable of pumping 10 million tons of oil and 800 million cubic meters of natural gas in overseas oil fields every year.

Oil exploration by Chinese firms in foreign markets spurs China's exporting of machines, raw materials and oil related services.

To ease the fuel shortage in rural areas, China is using new energy sources such as hydropower and geothermal and solar energy in some regions. Methane generating pits and energy saving ranges have been widely promoted across the country. The development of fuel forests -- forests planted specifically for fuel -- and small hydropower stations also helps to increase energy supply in rural areas.

(China Daily 10/23/2000)