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Water 2016, 8(10), 476; doi:10.3390/w8100476

Yunnan’s Fast-Paced Large Hydropower Development: A Powershed-Based Approach to Critically Assessing Generation and Consumption Paradigms

1
Faculty of Geography, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Deutschhausstr. 10, Marburg 35037, Germany
2
Yunnan Key Laboratory of International Rivers and Transboundary Eco-security, Yunnan University, the 6th Floor of Wenjin Building, No. 2 North Road of the Green Lake, Kunming 650091, Yunnan, China
3
Hobart & William Smith Colleges, 300 Pulteney Street, Geneva, NY 14456, USA
4
Asian International River Center, Yunnan University, Kunming 650091, Yunnan, China
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Jay Lund
Received: 22 July 2016 / Revised: 29 September 2016 / Accepted: 17 October 2016 / Published: 22 October 2016
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Abstract

Southwest China’s Yunnan province is evolving into one of the world’s largest hydro-power-producing regions. It already rivals the world’s largest hydro-producing nations. However, five of Yunnan’s six basins are international and therefore its hydropower development is of great academic and geopolitical interest. While the implementation of large projects on Yunnan’s three large rivers (Jinsha, Mekong and Nu) is relatively well studied, hydropower development outside these three main streams is hardly known. Here, we identified 128 large hydropower projects (≥50 MW) having a capacity of 16.5 GW, along with another 16.4 GW of other types of power generation, neither of which has been discussed in the academic literature yet. The paper utilizes a powershed approach to study the rapid hydropower development underway in Yunnan, both in its implication and challenges (at basin and administrative level) as well as in its trade-offs within the broader electricity context. Yunnan’s power generation and consumption patterns are characterized by diverging interests of local/provincial usage and export utilization. Within the province, the largest (hydro-) power users are energy/electricity intensive industries, which themselves have strong impacts on land use changes. Yunnan is also evolving as a major power exporter, already in 2013 exporting about one-third of its generated electricity mainly to Guangdong’s Pearl River Delta. We see a need for a critical revision of those existing generation and consumption paradigms, which includes a rethinking of major development modes, both in terms of future hydropower generation and utilization projects as well as export obligations. View Full-Text
Keywords: hydropower; powershed approach; social and environmental impacts; transmission; transnational river basins; large dams; Yunnan; China hydropower; powershed approach; social and environmental impacts; transmission; transnational river basins; large dams; Yunnan; China
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Hennig, T.; Wang, W.; Magee, D.; He, D. Yunnan’s Fast-Paced Large Hydropower Development: A Powershed-Based Approach to Critically Assessing Generation and Consumption Paradigms. Water 2016, 8, 476.

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