Wednesday 26 January 2011

Tibet to be focus of China’s all-out hydropower priority

(, Jan26, 2011) Calling the last five years as "lost time", China is to go all out in building hydropower projects over the next five years with Qinghai and Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) as the primary focus, according to Economic Observer online from China Jan 24. The report cited China Electricity Council vice chairman Wei Zhaofeng as saying that the development of hydroelectric power had become a priority, and that large and medium-sized hydropower projects will be granted approval during China’s 12th Five-year Plan.

Describing hydropower as an ideal project for western China and a fitting goal for regional development, the report said the Zangmu Dam, built in the TAR’s Lhokha (Chinese: Shannan) Prefecture, for hydroelectric power production, was completed on Nov 12, 2010.

The report noted that combined with preferential policies for the western areas included in the 12th Five-year Plan, the west is expected to experience an economic boom, a synonym for influx of Chinese immigrants and workers. 

The report noted that over the past five years, hydropower development in China has been a controversial topic but indicated that it will now be less so, given the official determination to push ahead with many such projects, including the controversial ones which had been held up due to environmental concerns. It cited Chinese Society of Hydroelectric Engineering deputy secretary-general Zhang Boting as saying that over the last five years, only one third of the hydropower programmes set out in the 11th Five-year Plan had been completed, but that the rest will be resumed during the 12th Five-year Plan.

The report noted that the lifting of the ban on hydroelectric development had caught the attention of many companies. Among the example it cited was that of China Power Investment Corporation General Party Manager Lu Qizhou who it said met in Kunming on Dec 20 with Yunnan Provincial Party Committee Member and Vice Governor Luo Zhengfu and Kunming Municipal Committee Secretary Qiu He about further cooperation in hydroelectric development.

The report said disputes among environmental protection bureaus and organizations over hydroelectric power were likely to continue although not so as to disrupt projects. It noted, for example, that when the 100th anniversary of the conference of China hydropower development was held in Yunnan in the name of energy conservation and emission reduction, the environmental protection bureaus never received an invitation.

Zhang has blamed extreme reactions of environmental protection agencies as the main reason for the pace of the development of hydropower in the country. “They have misled the media and overstated the problems which arise from the displacement of residents and the harmful impact on the environment. This has brought additional difficulties to seeking project approval,” he was quoted as saying.

However, Zhang has said the Chinese hydroelectric power generation was now at a turning point, with its development having become a priority in the yet-to-be finalized 12th Five-year Plan. He has noted that in the 12th Five-year Plan, the conventional hydropower target has been raised to 83 million kilowatts from 63 million kilowatts, and the pumped-storage hydropower generation target has been raised to 80 million kilowatts from 50 million kilowatts.

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