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Dammed by the data

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In a country where amazing statistics are rarely in short supply, Reuters found a corker in China this week. It pointed out that the amount of hydroelectric-generated power wasted in China is enough to “power Britain and Germany combined”.

The problem, it seems, is that not enough of China’s hydro supply is properly connected to the country’s power grids. “If China fully exploited hydropower, total annual output should be around 2.2 trillion kWh (kilowatt hours), compared to about 1 trillion kWh now,” Zhang Boting, deputy secretary-general of the China Hydropower Society, told Reuters. That means that the ‘wasted’ power amounts to about 944 billion kWh.

China’s dam-building programme has been controversial – not least the enormous Three Gorges project. Still, the country’s use of hydropower looks set to rise, with hydroelectricy constituting 17.3% of China’s power mix last year. But the industry’s proponents say that more needs to be done to ensure that small and medium-sized projects on the likes of the Dadu River are able to pass the power they generate onto the grid, rather than waste much of it.


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