China seen quickening hydropower approvals - media

BEIJING (Reuters) - China is likely to expedite approving hydropower projects from the second half of this year, or face missing its ambitious renewable energy target after cutbacks in the past five years, local media said.

Huaneng and Huadian -- parents of Huaneng Power International and Huadian Power -- have won environmental clearance for the dams they were told last year to halt, the 21st Century Business Herald reported on Tuesday.

China has set a goal to utilize renewables to supply 15 percent of its primary energy demand by 2020, and two-thirds of it will come from hydropower, according to a plan mapped out by the National Energy Administration, the paper said.

Under the plan, China, the world’s No.2 energy consumer and the top emitter of carbon dioxide, will need to have installed a total of 380 gigawatts of hydropower capacity by then, or nearly double the current capacity.

“It seems the central government’s attitude toward hydropower has warmed again. It’s expected to speed up approving projects from the second half of the year and in the next five years,” an official with China Society for Hydropower Engineering was quoted as saying.

Hydropowr is one crucial element in achieving China’s target to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 40-45 percent by 2020 from the 2005 level.

Last week, Beijing gave the final greenlight to two hydropower projects -- Jin’anqiao in Yunnan and Zangmushui in Tibet -- the first such approvals in more than two years, the paper said.

Tougher environmental rules, massive burdens of migrant relocation as well as the devastating earthquake in 2008 also contributed to curb development of the hugely expensive projects that take 6-8 years to build.

At present, China has 197 GW of hydropower generation capacity, roughly 23 percent of the country’s total. Coal fires about three quarters of China’s total electricity.

Reporting by Chen Aizhu; Editing by Jacqueline Wong