Although China in 2010 and 2011 was the world's leading wind power generator, it plans to cut back on renewables development. It now wants to accelerate the use of ‘new-energy’ sources such as nuclear power and put an end to 'blind expansion' in industries such as solar energy and wind power in 2012, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao said in a government report published in early March and reported in Asia Pulse.
Instead, China intends to develop more nuclear power, starting this year, actively develop hydroelectric power, tackle key problems more quickly in the exploration and development of shale gas, and increase the share of new energy and renewable energy in total energy consumption. Analysts believe that the development of the solar and wind power industries will stabilise, while hydropower will have the top priority in renewable energy development.
According to China's development plan for 2011-2015, it aims to increase the share of renewable energy consumption to 11.4 per cent of total consumption by the end of 2015. As solar power and wind power development are likely to following government measures to curb expansion, hydropower is expected to play a more important role in fulfilling the renewable energy consumption target, perhaps contributing as much as two-thirds of that target. The National Energy Administration (NEA) wants to add 20 GW of hydropower installed capacity, up 57 per cent year on year, which marks the biggest increase in recent years. Based on the average costs during 2006-2010, the planned 20 GW hydro capacity will require an investment of 137.4 billion yuan (US$21.7 billion).
Besides these developments, the government report emphasises accelerating the establishment of mechanisms that promote the use of new-energy sources and sets out the need to strengthen overall planning, promote auxiliary projects, strengthen policy guidance, and expand domestic demand. This means China will say goodbye to the era of fast development of wind and solar power, which failed to achieve 'sound utilisation', says Zhai Ruoyu, former general manager of the China Datang Corp., one of China's five largest power companies. This lack of soundness was essentially a drop in the contribution of non-fossil sources in 2011.
The share of non-fossil energy consumption, including hydropower, nuclear power, wind power and solar power, in total primary energy use in China witnessed a decline of 0.3 percentage point from 8.6 per cent in 2010 to 8.3 per cent in 2011, says Qian Zhimin, deputy director of the NEA. According to a report from the China Electricity Council on the performance of China's power industry in 2011, the average operating hours of hydropower generating facilities decreased 376 hours to 3028 hours in 2011, owing to severe drought, the lowest level of the past 20 years, while the the operating hours of wind power generating units dropped by 144 hours in 2011, despite an increase of 48.16 per cent in on-grid wind power capacity, and that of solar power generating units also declined, in spite of the tripling of installed capacity of solar PV.