China's economy has shown signs of a slowdown, as indicated in the newly released third-quarter economic figures. GDP growth in the first three quarters was 9.9 percent, 2.3 percentage points lower than the same period last year.
The National Bureau of Statistics spokesman said the 9.9-percent GDP growth was hard-won, as the country has gone through some tough times in 2008. Externally, the international credit crunch has resulted in less demand for Chinese commodities. Domestically, China has been hit by a series of natural disasters: the snow storm disaster early in the year, the May earthquake and floods in the summer, while being plagued by runaway inflation and a plunging stock market.
What makes the situations even more complicated is that the country also encountered the most severe electricity shortfall in recent years. Power plants can't afford the soaring prices of thermal coal, which accounts for 80 percent of the country's power generation.
While the government is striving to solve the electricity and coal predicament, it has realized that relying solely on coal for power generation is unsustainable. In fact, the country has already tapped into the clean, renewable energy arena to seek alternatives like water, wind and solar energy.
The government has prioritized hydropower in its new energy agenda. According to figures from the Energy Bureau of the National Development and Reform Commission, China has an exploitable installed capacity of 540 gigawatts in hydropower. The total installed capacity of hydropower was 145 gigawatts at the end of 2007. But its exploitation rate, only 27 percent, is still much lower than that of developed countries such as the United States (82 percent) and Japan (84 percent).
China is blessed with abundant water resources, and hydropower has the biggest potential. Moreover, the technology is mature, as the first hydropower station in China was built nearly 50 years ago.
Utilizing clean energy has become a worldwide trend and is vital to China's sustainable development. In the country's Mid- and Long-term Development Plan of Renewable Energy, the government has set a goal of 300 gigawatts in hydropower installed capacity by 2020. The coming decade must be a golden one for China's hydropower development.