BEIJING, Aug. 25 (UPI) -- China's hydropower installed capacity has exceeded 200 million kilowatts, making it the world's highest, state-owned news agency Xinhua reports.
The Chinese government aims to boost that amount to 300 million kilowatts by 2015, as part of its aim to cut carbon emissions per unit of gross domestic product by 40 to 45 percent by 2020, said Zhang Guobao, director of the National Energy Administration.
In an online interview with China's Sina Finance news Web site Tuesday, Zhang reiterated China's pledge at the Copenhagen summit on global climate change last December that it would generate 15 percent of its power from non-fossil sources by 2020, up from the current 7.8 percent.
"We will take the initiative to deliver that promise even though the task is not easy at all," said Zhang. "But we still have a lot of basic work to do."
Hydropower accounts for about three-fifths of China's energy generated from non-fossil sources.
China -- which has surpassed the United States as the world's biggest energy user, new data last month from the International Energy Agency show -- has long relied on coal to fuel its soaring economic growth. About 83 percent of its electricity output is produced by coal-fired power stations.
The world's top emitter of greenhouse gases, China also aims to cut carbon emissions per unit of economic output by 40 to 45 percent of 2005 levels by 2020. Greenpeace says that 80 percent of China's carbon dioxide emissions and 85 percent of its sulfur dioxide pollution comes from burning coal.
Zhang said China would boost its efforts to develop hydropower projects across the country but would apply stricter approval procedures that take into consideration the protection of the environment, land resources and the rights of displaced people.
To construct China's Three Gorges -- the world's largest and most expensive dam -- 1,350 villages were submerged and 1.3 million people displaced from their homes. The dam has a capacity of 18,000 megawatts of electricity.
Of China's 542 million kilowatts of exploitable hydroelectric potential, only 400 million kilowatts is suitable for hydropower construction, Zhang said.
Zhang said the NEA is determining the feasibility of raising the on-grid price for hydropower so that it would be the same rate as electricity produced by thermal power plants.
"Views on raising the on-grid price for hydropower vary among different government departments, and the public at large," Zhang said. "We should take into account what society can afford."