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China Needs New Energy Technologies.

China can afford to meet its burgeoning energy needs without compromising environmental goals by applying new technologies and accelerating market reforms, according to a report issued by Battelle, Columbus, Ohio. "China's Electric Power Options: An Analysis of Economic and Environmental Costs" is a joint effort by Battelle's Advanced International Studies Unit, the Beijing Energy Efficiency Center, and China's Energy Research Institute.

Rapid economic growth over the past two decades has made China the fastest growing market for electric power in the world. Since 1990, the country has added the equivalent of one large (600 megawatts) power plant every two weeks. Its heavy reliance on coal to fuel most of these needs has caused extensive environmental damage. Sulfur dioxide emissions alone, the main precursor of acid rain, cost the economy more than $13,000,000,000 each year, erasing two percent of the nation's gross national product.

"Chinese planners and government officials have often placed economic growth ahead of environmental concerns," Jeff Logan, lead author of the report, points out. "But we found that when you consider the full environmental costs of producing electricity, it's actually more economical to use cleaner alternatives, like flue gas desulfurization equipment, natural gas, and clean coal technologies." He adds that China should accelerate its research and development programs on fuel cells, gas and wind turbines, gasification processes, and other advanced power technologies as a way to meet future energy and environmental goals with the least cost. "We think China could become a leading exporter of these advanced technologies within two decades."

Results of the study indicate that:

* Controlling sulfur emissions in southern China is cheaper than incurring the environmental and health damages they cause.

* Natural gas can meet up to one-third of the country's future power needs for less total cost than using coal.

* Nuclear power is not competitive with other power-generation technologies, even if capital costs decline by one-third.

* Demand-side efficiency often is cheaper than adding new power supplies.

* Wind power could compete with base-load coal plants in some regions if China develops energy storage devices to raise power availability.

* China's successful energy conservation efforts have reduced annual carbon dioxide emissions by up to 50%.

The study determined that expanding the availability of low-cost natural gas is critical for its energy future. "Natural gas has been largely ignored for most of China's history," notes Bill Chandler, director of Battelle's Advanced International Studies Unit. "However, if China combines new exploration technology with market and regulatory reforms, then it could rapidly increase the amount of gas available for residential, industrial, and power applications." He says the benefits of using natural gas over coal include near-zero emissions of harmful sulfur and particulates, shorter power plant construction times, low capital costs, and a reduction of 60% in carbon dioxide emissions.

While Beijing has taken some steps to increase the availability and use of natural gas, including the construction of a natural gas pipeline that supplies the clean fuel to over 300,000 users in the capital, other barriers remain, including "the lack of a natural gas champion within the government, along with artificially low prices for natural gas, which inhibit further exploration and development," Logan indicates.
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Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Dec 1, 1998
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