2009-03-21

China's hydropower sector is shifting to a stronger stance

It is also a bit surprising to me, not only to the power sector, that hydropower was not listed as a source of clean energy before this year's National People Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference meetings in Beijing. However, after a series of lobbying, it was finally listed in China's clean energy development framework.

According to a feature article in China Power News Network, the hydropower sector has promised a number of measures to remedy the problems in hydropower development, while demanding energy subsidies from the government. Obviously, the power sector has two major weapons to bargain for the energy subsidies - energy security and solutions to climate change.

While Chinese government is desperate to maintain a stable economic growth and energy security, amid the global economic downturn, the hydropower sector, though being plagued by a series of social and environmental problems, lured the central government with an easy solution, but under the condition that energy subsidies should cover hydropower. In return, hydropower sector can afford compliances of all measures, including paying for environmental exploitation, integrated water resources management and long-term benefit-sharing mechanism (with the affected people).

Such call was even echoed by the Director of the newly-formed National Energy Bureau, Zhang Guobao, and the famous hydropower advocate, Pan Jiazheng.

The listing of hydropower in the national clean energy development, not only laid the ground for speeding up, but may also change the rationale behind such development. That is, free fuel cost will no longer be the main economic incentives for hydropower, but the country's energy subsidies. Electricity stability is also the key to maintaining the economic growth, and therefore an independent energy source like hydropower will become another major advantage over other imported fuel like oil and gas, and costly energy sources like solar and wind.

I can conclude that the discourse of hydropower in China has been shifting to stronger stance, which is more firmly rooted with the country's economic and political interest, after this year's NPC and CPPCC meetings.

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