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Sichuan Says Over 5,100 Small Hydropower Plants In The Region Have Been Reviewed

The era of virtually unlimited hydropower in the Chinese province of Sichuan could be coming to an end. And while the abundance of electricity coming from the region’s plentiful water sources has been reserved for the summer months, the latest regulatory crackdown has drastically decreased the number of operational hydropower plants.

According to a July 22nd report from People’s Daily, the Sichuan Provincial Water Resources Department has completed the cleanup and rectification process of small hydropower plants in the Yangtze River Economic Zone. The process, officially completed on June 30th, reviewed 5,131 small hydropower stations in the region and assessed their compliance with all of the technical and environmental requirements imposed by the Department.

Earlier this week, the Sichuan Provincial Water Resources Department held a meeting with the members of the Yangtze River Economic Zone Cleanup and Rectification Work Group. During the meeting, officials discussed the problems they found during the rectification process and laid out plans to put forward clearer and more transparent requirements for upcoming review processes. Guo Hengxiao, the Party Secretary of the Sichuan Provincial Water Resources Department, said that the cleanup and rectification process for small hydropower plants in the region was initiated by “social concern.” Environmental protection inspectors employed by the central government have been employed to deal with the investigations, some of which have lasted for the better part of the past three years.

As the investigations found that some of the 5,131 hydropower plants in the region weren’t up to provincial standards, all relevant departments at all governmental levels have been instructed to increase their oversight over the issue. And while the largest number of issues found among the hydropower plants were related to a lack of clear operational structure among employees, inspectors reported a significant number of ecological concerns. Namely, some hydropower plants didn’t have the proper infrastructure set for the generated electricity to exit the plant and enter the larger, provincial grid.

Out of the 5,131 small hydropower plants reviewed, 3,528 have successfully completed the cleanup and rectification process and were given the green light to continue operating as usual. A total of 1,360 hydropower plants have exited the process, while 243 have had their process “reserved.” It’s unclear whether or not they will be able to continue operating and when their review process will be completed.

Since the beginning of 2020, a total of 1,093 small hydropower stations have been withdrawn from service in Sichuan. The number of hydropower stations that fall under the “exit category,” which means they supply electricity to the larger provincial grid, has risen from 1,250 to 1,360.

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