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Thermal power worsens acid rain pollution
Updated: 2004-06-26 11:47

China's environmental watchdog warned in Beijing Friday that booming thermal power plants may worsen China's acid rain pollution if their sulfur dioxide emission is not well controlled.

Pan Yue, vice-director of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), made the remark when reporting to the press the crackdown against the Guiyang thermal power plant in the southwestern province of Guizhou, which had put the newly-built power set into use without the desulfurization equipment.

"Thermal power plants discharge a large proportion of the country's total sulfur dioxide emission. If their emissions are not well controlled, the acid rain pollution will probably worsen, " Pan said.

Although China's power production and generation capacity reached the second place of the world by the end of 2003, they still cannot satisfy the soaring economy's appetite for energy.

Reportedly China will suffer from severe power shortage this summer. There are already 24 provinces and municipalities which set limits on industrial and civil use of electricity. Thermal power plants, accounting for 74 percent of total power supply, spring up to fill the gap.

Exhaust gas discharged by thermal power plants, which are based on coal burning, contains abundant sulfur dioxide a chemical causing acid rain.

Statistics show that China's annual sulfur dioxide emission, of which thermal power emission makes up 34.6 percent, exceeds the maximum of environmental capacity by 80 percent. The resulting acid rain costs annual loss of 110 billion yuan (US$13.3 billion), two or three percent of the annual Gross Domestic Production.

China's laws and regulations state that the desulfurization equipment must be designed, built, and put into operation simultaneously with the power sets. Unfortunately, most investors are too eager for instant profits to stick to the rule, according to Pan.

SEPA updated the environmental standards for thermal power plants in March, which tightens their sulfur dioxide emission. SEPA also demands all plants install a exhaust gas monitoring system which could be connected to SEPA's central server.

To reduce the thermal power sulfur dioxide emission to 7.84 billion tons in 2020, 80 percent of thermal power plants have to set up the desulfurization equipment before 2005.

Besides, SEPA will enforce economic policies including implementing an emission licensing system, add desulfurization cost to the power price and raise the sulfur dioxide emission fee.

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