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Nation to tap hydropower from west


China plans to become the world's No 1 hydro superpower - and meet a State goal - in 15 years by building a national network of electricity-generation stations.

Hydropower authorities are confident that by the same year China can harness 40 per cent of its water for power, up from the 17 per cent it can tap with equipment already built. The international average is 30 per cent.

The power network will give top priority to western areas.

Water Resources Minister Wang Shucheng said that the five provinces with China's best hydropower potential are in the west.

"They should be developed during China's campaign to accelerate development of the west," Wang said.

China also aims to build more infrastructure, particularly highways, and plant lots of trees and grass. Another goal is restructuring industries and agriculture.

According to a State Power Corp (SPC) blueprint, an electricity-supply hub based at the Three Gorges hydropower station on the Yangtze River will become the first regional power grid.

By 2010, three more regional grids will be established: in North, Central and South China. By 2015, all the regional grids will be linked to one another and form an integrated network. They will be joined after the construction of some major State-run hydropower stations.

"Such a national electricity network is capable of sending electricity from China's western parts to the east, easing the shortage of electricity in economically prosperous East China and advancing the development of China's economy," a source with the SPC said.

China can produce as many as 676 million kilowatts of hydropower, more than any other country in the world. China can feasibly harness 378 million kilowatts now. Electricity generated now by the hydropower stations in operation accounts for less than 14 per cent of the total (17 per cent is the capacity, but some stations are not in use). The 14-per cent figure is lower than that of Brazil, Egypt, India and other developing countries.

Experts from the SPC attribute China's lower rate to its long duration of construction and huge investment, which means more time to get financing and a longer time for economic returns.

Meanwhile, 75 per cent of China's hydropower potential is in the west, but only 8 per cent has been exploited, according to SPC data.

Southwest China's Yunnan is an example of untapped western resources. Full of rivers with great drop in elevation, Yunnan could produce more than 90 million kilowatts.

Experts with the SPC predict that Yunnan will contribute significantly to harnessing hydropower in western China and realizing China's strategy of sending power west to east.


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