Business analysts in Beijing say that the proportion of China’s total electricity production from hydroelectric power plants has fallen from 30.8 per cent in 1980 to 23.5 per cent in 1996, according to the China Daily Business Weekly. It is expected to continue declining further over the next few years unless hydro wins increased support from government (see story, p2). Hydroelectric power projects totalling just 1600MW were implemented in 1997. One factor which is holding back the construction of more new plants is that they usually take longer to construct than thermal power plants.

Hydroelectricity is still cheaper than electricity from other sources in China. The cost of 1000kWh of hydroelectric power is US$10.24, compared with US$23.01 for the same amount of electricity from thermal power sources. However, it is this low price that limits revenues for use in building new hydro plants, Beijing sources say.