Tatton teaser: Is Hydropower China’s biggest source of ‘clean energy?’

Posted 1 September 2022

Severe heatwaves, however, have not been exclusive to Europe. Southwestern China is currently facing a record 11-week heatwave accompanied by a historic drought. The Yangtze, Asia’s longest river has seen water levels retreat to 60-year lows. The Yangtze serves numerous hydropower plants most notably, the Three Gorges Dam the world’s largest powerplant which on its own is roughly equivalent to 20 Chinese nuclear power plants.

Hydropower is China’s greatest source of “clean energy” generating 18% of national power (BloombergNEF, 2020). As a result of the ongoing drought a 51% decline in daily hydropower generation, has induced a power shortage. Sichuan province has endured the worst of the shortage as 82% of the provincial power generation capacity is hydropower, resulting in power rationing measures to control a surge in demand resulting from air-conditioning units. Sichuan captures approximately one fifth of national lithium production, resultantly, Contemporary Amperex Technology Co Ltd (Largest EV battery maker worldwide) partially halted production causing Tesla Inc, to state supply chain disruptions for the Shanghai Gigafactory. Since coal mines in China have seen an 11% increase in output this year, and extreme weather patterns are fast becoming the new normal, how can China become less reliant on fossil fuels, given than climate change is damaging China’s efforts to reduce it? A classic climate-catch-22.

Thank you Eli Stubley for this note.

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