China to unveil plan for "new energy" by year-end

BEIJING (Reuters) - Coal-dependent China will unveil a plan to foster the development of “new energy” sources, including wind, solar and nuclear, by the end of this year, state media on Monday quoted a senior energy policy official as saying.

A worker levels out a load of coal inside a railroad truck at a coal dump site in Taiyuan, Shanxi province July 27, 2009. REUTERS/Stringer

Sun Qin, vice head of the National Energy Administration (NEA), told a forum in southern Guangzhou city that a guide for developing energy technologies would also be released, but gave no further details.

The development and utilization of clean coal technologies would be an important part in the “new energy” plan, Sun was quoted as saying.

China has long been seeking to diversify away from coal, which currently provides over 70 percent of its power, but produces large amounts of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and pollutants like acid-rain causing sulfur dioxide.

Boosting the role of other hydrocarbons such as gas and oil means increasing imports, which causes energy security worries in Beijing. It also does little to improve the emissions profile of a country which recently became the world’s biggest annual producer of greenhouse gases.

The government has been pushing for greener growth for several years, and has recently stepped up backing for renewable power with new tariffs for wind power and an ambitious plan to increase installed capacity to 100 GW by 2020, and subsidies for solar energy. It has long poured resources into hydropower.

Beijing has committed to making renewable energy 10 percent of China’s primary energy mix by 2010, and 15 percent by 2020, though much of it will be from giant dams like the Three Gorges.

It is also keen to build more nuclear power plants, to the frustration of some environmentalists.

The government is also considering raising power prices before the end of the year under a pricing formula that has not been followed for several years, a weekly newspaper said last week, citing a source and an energy official.

Higher prices could help increase efficiency and make more-expensive renewable power more efficient. China has long promised to adjust government-controlled resource prices to better reflect their cost, but been slow to act.

Reporting by Emma Graham-Harrison; Editing by Jacqueline Wong