Tibet, one of the sunniest regions in China, has made progress in developing solar energy, but high costs and people's traditional living habits still hinder its promotion.
"I know that solar energy is good, but the one-off investment is still relatively high," said a bathing house boss surnamed Zhang, in Lhasa, the autonomous region's capital.
The owner said it would cost him 100,000 yuan (14,000 U.S. dollars) if his house adopted the solar heating system.
The region has about 3,000 hours of sunshine annually. Since the mid-1980s, it has been developing and promoting the use of solar power. It has about 400 solar panel power stations with a total installed capacity of 9,000 kilowatts.
Apart from the high costs, many farmers and herdsmen in remote areas, still burn wood or dung for cooking or heating.
"Both the residents and government have not fully realized the significance of developing solar energy," said Dai Gangan, deputy director of the Science and Technology Bureau of Ali, where sunshine hours can reach 3,800 a year.
In the past decade, Ali has connected 3.2 million square meters of homes to solar heating.
But the use of the solar energy in farming and pasture areas in Ali is still low, Dai said.
The region planned to seek fund support from the central government to build small solar power stations during the 2006-2010 period, according to the regional development and reform commission.
The investment will be used to bring electricity to 187,000 farmers and herdsmen in remote areas.
Using the sun is regarded as an effective way to solve the problem of the many remote towns and villages that lack electricity. About one-third of Tibet's population of 2.7 million is still without electricity.
(Xinhua News Agency March 1, 2008)