China Unveils Geothermal Energy Plan

Guan Fengjun, director of the ministry’s department of geological environment, made the comment on Friday, International Mother Earth Day – which this year the ministry gave the motto "cherishing the earth’s natural resources and transforming our economic growth pattern".

Using geothermal energy for heating and generating electricity is a significant part of China’s low-carbon development strategy, Guan said. By 2015, this green-energy source can replace 68.8 million tons of coal and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 180 million tons, Guan said.

Geothermal power has advantages over other clean-energy sources, said Dorje, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering who specializes in this energy source that uses heat generated by and stored in the Earth.

It is safer than nuclear energy, which presents the risk of radiation leaks, and is not affected by seasons, unlike hydropower and solar energy, Dorje said.

However, the huge preliminary investment required, and its not yet fully developed technology and uneven geographic distribution have prevented geothermal energy from being widely used in China, he said.

China began employing geothermal energy in the 1970s and built its first geothermal power station in Yangbajain, the Tibet autonomous region, in 1977.

The Yangbajain Geothermal Power Station, the largest of its kind in China, has generated 2.4 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity to date.

This year, China will explore and evaluate shallow-lying geothermal energy in 29 provincial capital cities across the country, including Shijiazhuang, Shenyang and Zhengzhou, according to Wang Xuelong, deputy director of the China Geological Survey.

The central government will allocate 164 million yuan ($25.2 million) for the investigation, Wang said. Geothermal power is not only an alternative to fossil fuel. It also boosts the tourism industry in regions such as the Chongqing municipality in Southwest China, heating the water that gushes from the hot springs.

There are 107 hot-spring sites in Chongqing, and industries related to these already provide job opportunities for 60,000 local residents, said Tan Xiwei, vice-mayor of the city.