(October 10, 2012) China’s bid to secure its energy needs is leading to Tibet, where a subsidiary of one of China’s largest state-owned electric utilities has inked a deal to develop the region’s solar and hydroelectric power resources.
Background: China’s dam-building on rivers flowing from the Himalayan region has long provoked growing concern in downstream neighbouring countries, who fear China’s fast-paced development will disrupt water flow, degrade fragile environments and trigger natural disasters. Thirsty China is not interested only in Tibet’s resources: its control over upstream sources of most of Asia’s major rivers is regarded with suspicion – most notably for its aggressiveness and its poor record of transparency and data-sharing, all of which have marked China as the foremost target for criticism concerning energy extraction in the region. China has aggravated this notoriety by refusing to sign a key 1997 UN convention on transnational rivers – a treaty that requires countries to notify, consult, and negotiate with other countries affected by transnational waterway development. Meanwhile, China’s controversial hydropower expansion in the Mekong River Basin remains a source of ongoing dispute between China and five of its neighbours who share the river, considered the heart and soul of mainland Southeast Asia.
Company taps clean energy in Tibet
By Xinhua News, published on October 4, 2012
A national energy company is planning to invest 100 billion yuan (15.87 billion U.S. dollars) within 10 years to tap into abundant solar and hydroelectric power resources in Tibet.
Huaneng Tibet Power Generation Co., Ltd. (HTPG), a subsidiary of the state-owned China Huaneng Group, has signed multiple agreements with the Tibetan autonomous regional government regarding development of clean energy, company sources said.
“The investment is aimed at putting an end to the energy shortage in Tibet and sending power out of the region as well,” said Liu Xingguo, general manager of HTPG.
Tibet has abundant solar and hydroelectric power resources, with the amount of annual sunlight clocking in at 2,000 hours and hydropower resources that are believed to account for 29 percent of the national total.
However, Tibet still suffers from power shortage due to underdeveloped infrastructure, which has in turn hindered the region’s economic and social development.
In July 2010, Huaneng kicked off construction on the Zangmu Hydropower Station, the largest hydropower project in the region.
The 8.5 billion-yuan project, with an installed capacity of 510,000 kilowatts, is expected to go operational in 2014 and reach its full capacity in 2016 after its six power-generating units are put into use, generating 2.5 billion kilowatts of electricity annually.
By 2015, Huaneng’s installed capacity in Tibet will reach 800,000 kilowatts and rise further to 10 million kilowatts by 2020, according to the agreements between the company and the regional government.
The original version of this article is available here.