China's Sichuan to restrict new hydro projects over 2016-2020
Author: David Stanway
The hydropower-rich province of Sichuan in southwest China will restrict dam construction in the coming five years and work to improve electric grid planning in a bid to cut waste.
In policy proposals published on its website, the provincial government said it would ban small-scale hydropower development and severely restrict medium-sized plants over the 2016-2020 period. The powers of local authorities to approve new projects will also be curbed.
Sichuan had a total of 67.59 gigawatts (GW) of hydropower capacity by the end of 2015, around a fifth of the national total, that generated 264 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity during the year.
The province is a key part of China's west-east power transmission project which delivers electricity to the east coast through ultra-high voltage lines, but large volumes are wasted as a result of insufficient grid capacity and poor planning.
Senior power company executives have accused Sichuan of adopting a laissez-faire approach to hydropower development, allowing large numbers of firms to build plants with scant regard for overall planning.
The vice-president of the central government-owned China Guodian Corporation, Xie Changjun, last year likened the treatment of Sichuan's Dadu River to "a piece of meat being chopped and chopped very badly" and said the performance of his own company's plants in the area had suffered.
Earlier this year, the neighboring province of Yunnan also restricted small-scale hydropower plants on the Nu river, otherwise known as the Salween, which flows into Myanmar.
The move to clear out smaller plants was believed to pave the way for the construction of several large dams on the river, which has so far been spared large-scale development.
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Yunnan said in its five-year energy plan published on Monday that it would cooperate with state policies to promote the development of hydropower on the Nu river, and aimed to raise the province's total hydro capacity to 70 gigawatts by the end of 2020.
(Editing by Christian Schmollinger)