...adding the equivalent of
Said Zheng Jianchao of the Academy of Engineering of China: In the next 20 years, '... we need an additional supply equivalent to four more Three Gorges hydroelectric dams, 26 Yanzhou coalmines, six Daqing oilfields, eight gas pipelines and 20 nuclear power plants, as well as 400 thermal power generators and the network to link them all together.'
Regards, Jim Muckerheide
Jonathan Watts in
Sunday July 4, 2004
It looks like the set of a Spielberg science fiction epic. At night, deep in the heart of Sichuan province, miles and miles of vast, silent darkness suddenly give way to the glare of hundreds of spotlights, the frenetic activity of cranes and tractors, and the roar of millions of tonnes of water thundering out from turbines the size of cliff faces.
This is the world's biggest hydroelectric
plant - the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze river - which was rushed into
operation last year to meet
This is supposed to satisfy a tenth of the nation's power needs - one of the main justifications for a scheme that was pushed ahead despite concerns for the river environment and the welfare of hundreds of thousands of people who were forced to move before their homes disappeared under the waters.
Even this mega-project has not been enough to prevent the worst power shortages in more than 20 years. A summer of cuts, partial blackouts and restrictions has now prompted experts to warn of an energy crisis with global implications.
The world's most populous and fastest-growing nation is eating up a growing share of the planet's oil and coal, pushing up international energy prices and increasingly being forced to look beyond its borders for supplies. In the next 15 years, demand is expected to double, which would bring about a change in the balance of power - not just in terms of electrical supply, but diplomacy, security and finance.
The environmental impact is huge. After
But it is not coming on line quickly enough to meet the appetite for power, with a sharp increase in factories producing steel, cars and concrete. Rising affluence means that a growing middle class can afford gas-guzzling cars and electricity-gobbling air-conditioners.
From January to April, the demand for energy in China rose by 16 per cent, outstripping demand to such an extent that 24 of the country's 31 provinces were hit by power cuts and partial blackouts or 'brownouts'.
'Insufficient energy supply and power
shortages have become a bottleneck for the city's rapid development,'
Hit by power failures in peak periods, factory owners are adjusting production schedules, but many warn that their profitability is at risk because of output falls and rising energy prices. 'Energy is a really big problem for us,' said Osmo Oja, the director of a plant in Shenzhen. 'We've faced shortages and sometimes even 24-hour cuts. At times we have survived only because of our own power generator.'
So far the effect on the economy has been
limited, but if the situation continues analysts warn that
But that is becoming an increasingly expensive
option. A decade ago,
The need to secure energy resources also
helps to explain why
With nuclear plants, hydroelectric dams and gas pipelines under construction, the government predicts supply will meet demand within two years. But analysts warn that - unless the economy cools down or greater effort is paid towards energy conser vation - the problems are likely to re-emerge soon afterwards.
If this can be achieved, the global balance of power will be transformed. If not, the world's fastest-growing economy could simply run out of steam. Between the two extremes is a greater emphasis on energy conservation.
Xu Dingming, director of the Energy
Bureau, said recently that it was not feasible to keep boosting supply to match
the expected 400 per cent increase in the size of
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