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Nation not ready to give up “dirty” energy habit

By Lin Boqiang (Global Times)

10:57, August 31, 2012

Over the past six years, China's investment in coal-fired power, the country's traditional source of power as well as a major source of carbon emissions, has slowly been trickling off as the government intensifies its drive to develop the domestic clean energy sector.

Last year, investment in coal-fired power development reached 105.4 billion yuan ($16.59 billion), down 53.61 percent from 2005, according to the China Electricity Council (CEC). Meanwhile, 35.13 percent of the country's overall annual investment in the energy industry was directed toward coal-fired energy in 2011, down 40.6 percentage points from 2005, CEC data show.

Although China desperately needs to reduce its dependence on carbon-emitting energy sources, unfortunately its current demand for power far outstrips what its clean energy sector can provide. Without substantial improvements to the country's clean energy infrastructure, further withdrawals of financial support for coal-fired power may lead to widespread shortages of power which will threaten the nation's economic growth and the livelihoods of its people.

At present, according to the CEC, coal-fired power accounts for about 80 percent of the country's power supply. Wind and solar power, which experienced rapid growth in recent years thanks to the government's backing, still account for less than 2 percent of the country's energy supply. Hydroelectric and nuclear energy account for most of the remaining 18 percent.

Such an imbalance, combined with a slew of technological hurdles, means that it will be many years yet before China can seriously consider a large-scale phasing out of its coal-fired capacity.

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