China is rethinking its energy options. Solar energy and wind, along with biomass, will be given a boost over hydroelectric plants, to the extent that the share of renewable energy (excluding hydro plants) in China in 2020 is expected to be 6%, up from the current 1.5%.
The Three Gorges hydroelectric dam, which had been heavily condemned by environmentalists before construction started, has led to a rethink by its operators, the China Three Gorges Project Corporation (CTGPC), who are now turning to windpower instead.
The Chinese government is regretting the high costs of the Three Gorges project, which required the flooding of large areas of fertile farmland and displaced millions of residents.
It has acknowledged the increased threat of landslides, the disruption of fragile ecosystems, water quality problems and increased seismic activity in the region.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, a geologist by trade, has just ordered a complete halt to the construction of several controversial ľ but unapproved ľ hydropower plants on the UNESCO-protected Nu River in south-west China's Yunnan province.
Last year, China also abandoned plans to submerge the Tiger Leaping Gorge, a well-known tourist spot in Yunnan, after objections by environmentalists and local communities.
China had 171.5 GW of total hydropower capacity by the end of last year, representing about a third of its total potential.
However, solar power is on the rise. The government body responsible for overseeing energy policy has finalised a proposal for incentives worth billions of euros for solar farms and rooftop panels.
Municipalities in sunny areas, such as Gansu, Qinghai and Inner Mongolia, are pushing ahead with their solar plans. In Gansu, 10 solar farms are either under construction or in the process of seeking approval.
Nevertheless, China is expected to remain dependent on coal for about 70% of its energy needs for at least the next two decades, which means it will remain the world's biggest emitter of CO2.