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Promotion of Clean Energy Stressed

China is gearing up to develop clean energy by using nuclear, wind and solar sources to generate power in order to cut reliance on coal and oil, said a senior official from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).


"The government is vigorously making efforts to tap clean energies to optimize the current power generation mix, which relies on coal for some 80 percent of its power output and is blamed for severe environmental pollution and congested transportation," Zhang Guobao, vice-chairman of the country's top policy regulator NDRC, told the China Power 2005 conference yesterday in Beijing.


According to Zhang, coal-fired plants account for 73.9 percent of the country's total 440 megawatts installed capacity in 2004.


Hydro-plants make up 24.5 percent in the aggregate installed capacity by last year, and nuclear approximately 1.6 percent.


Renewable energies such as wind, biomass and solar only take up a very small proportion, which can be ignored in light of the country's huge power demand, said Zhang Guobao.


Coal-fuelled power plants produce almost half of the country's air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, said Zhang Lijun, deputy-director of the State Environmental Protection Administration of China (SEPA), who also attended yesterday's power industry conference.


SEPA's Zhang said the country's coal-fired plants emitted more than 13 million tonnes of sulfur dioxide, and the figure is expected to rise to 16 million tonnes for this year.


Zhang Guobao said China should greatly encourage the development of hydro-plants, although some environmentalists argue building hydro-plants may threaten the local ecological system in areas.


Liao Xiaoyi, president of the Global Village of Beijing, a non-governmental organization in promoting environmental protection, earlier told China Daily that hydro resources should not be viewed as one of the clean energies to generate power, since building dams will threaten the lives of local plants and animals by changing the existing ecological conditions.


NDRC's Zhang Guobao yesterday said the experts' sentiment is somewhat "overstated," and hydro resources are very important and abundant reserves for a power generation alternative in cutting its reliance on coal and oil.


But since the country is believed to still depend on coal for most of its energy needs for the future, and problems still exist in land use as well as resident relocation for hydro-plant construction, the top policy planning body only sets a reserved target to develop the hydro resources in producing electricity.


According to Zhang Guobao, most of the power plants to be approved by the NDRC are coal-fired, so the proportion of hydro-plants in the country's total installed capacity is projected to drop to 22.6 percent from last year's 24.5 percent.


The vice-minister estimated the installed capacity of hydro-plants in China will rise from the 108 megawatts last year to 160 megawatts by 2010, or 23.9 percent of the total capacity. And the hydro-plant capacity is set to reach 246 megawatts by 2020, or 25.9 percent of the total.


As for the renewable energies such as wind and solar, Zhang Guobai said the target is 40 megawatts by 2020, or 4.3 percent of the country's total installed capacity.


In order to tap into the wind resources across the country in generating power, which are believed to have the most potential renewable energy for commercialisation, the country has invested some 30 million tonnes (US$3.7 million) a year in assessing the wind resources in different regions to locate the wind mills since 2003. And the preliminary work is to be completed by next year, Zhang Guobao said.


(China Daily August 11, 2005)

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