Accepted paper:

Understanding China's hydropower development under the institutionalized governance process of policy coevolution - a case study of Nuozhadu mega-dam in China

Authors:

Yan Zhang (University of Cambridge)

Paper short abstract:

The paper analysed the case study of Nuozhadu project along the Lancang River, and concluded that, dynamic policy coevolution is essential for China's hydropower development, however, it has also been substantially subject to the institutionalised governance process under strategic planning.

Paper long abstract:

China, with the biggest electricity system, now leads the world on its global share in electricity production and consumption, as well as greenhouse gas emission. Hydropower has continuously served as the renewable foundation of China's energy transition and reduction of greenhouse emissions. However, after intensive investment and construction of power generation infrastructure, renewable power has been severely curtailed due to the uncoordinated power system with distorted pricing mechanisms and the absence of the transaction market, as well as regional protectionism. In 2016, an alarming 50 billion kWh hydropower was curtailed, mainly in Yunnan and Sichuan. The hydropower development in China has been coordinated through the institutionalised governance process, which is mainly composed of strategic planning, and dynamic policy coevolution across sectors and governmental levels. This paper aims to apply a qualitative case study method to analyse the Nuozhadu hydropower project, the largest mega-dam along the Lancang River, with a total capacity of 5850 MW. The case study suggests that current governance approach has led to regional incoordination and imbalance in energy demand and supply, which has caused huge waste of clean hydroelectricity over recent years. The ongoing power sector reform will be of great help in tackling the hydropower curtailment, but further institutional reforms will be needed for better coordination. The paper concludes that, dynamic policy coevolution is essential for China's hydropower development, however, it has also been substantially subject to the institutionalised governance process under strategic planning.

panel I3
Dams, development & decision-making [paper]