China speeds up construction of hydropower plants

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br smog Bloomberg Smog surrounds buildings in Guangzhou, in China's Guangdong province. Heavy smog in major cities has put the government under severe pressure to ease China's coal dependence. It plans to raise hydroelectric capacity by half by 2020. Photo: Bloomberg

More hydroelectric plants will go into construction this year as the country tries to wean itself off fossil fuels, according to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

They would help to catch up with an ambitious target to raise hydroelectric capacity by half by 2020, Li said in his annual address to the National People’s Congress last week.

China, the biggest hydropower producer, is on course to exceed a target to raise its hydro capacity by 70 gigawatts between 2011 and 2015, raising total hydroelectric capacity to 290GW.

“Looking at the major projects in the pipeline – including those on the Yarlong, Dadu and Jinsha [rivers], which could complete construction by 2015 – China would meet and exceed its target… by as much as 10GW,” Grace Mang at advocacy group International Rivers said.

To meet the 2020 target to raise capacity to 420GW, up 50 percent from the end of last year, 120GW of new plants must go into construction between 2011 and 2015, but tougher approval rules mean it has fallen behind.

Hydro accounted for 22 percent of China’s power capacity by the end of last year. – Reuters

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