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China outlines plans to increase use of renewable energy

Sep 4, 2007 - The Associated Press

China on Tuesday announced details of its plans to increase the use of renewable energy in an attempt to cut pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

It hopes that by 2020 about 15 percent of China's energy will be provided by clean forms of power, mainly through the massive expansion of hydro-electric projects.

The government says about 8 percent of the country's energy needs are now met by renewable energy sources.

"There is nothing else comparable anywhere else in the world. These are ambitious targets we've set," said Chen Deming, a senior official at China's main economic development commission.

The government says it wants to nearly treble the amount of electricity generated by hydro-electric schemes such as the Three Gorges Dams project.

Hydro-electric schemes are able to create about 117 gigawatts of power in China, according to figures released two years ago. The government wants to increase that capacity to 300 GW by 2020, mainly though creating new hydro-electric projects in western China, the source of many of the country's rivers.

Chen said he knew that some environmentalists had criticized the ecological damage created by such schemes, but said the benefits outweighed any disadvantages.

"The use of this form of energy will lead to a reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions and we believe that through proper planning the environmental impact can be brought under control," he said.

The government also plans to develop other forms of renewable energy such as wind and solar power, although they will form only a fraction of the country's total energy output.

About 70 percent of the country's electricity is now provided by coal-powered power stations and China is officially the world's second-largest producer of greenhouse gases, behind the United States.

Beijing has previously said it will also increase the use of nuclear power in the coming decades to reduce its reliance on burning coal, one of the main sources of greenhouse gases.

The government admits climate change will have a major impact on China, with more extreme weather conditions creating more natural disasters, and putting added strain on the country's natural resources.

But it says it will not accept any internationally imposed cap on its greenhouse gas emissions which might hinder the country's economic development.