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Half Empty ep.9: Shifting energy sources helps save water resources

Reporter: Han Bin 丨 CCTV.com

05-24-2015 04:21 BJT

Full coverage: Special Series: Half Empty

China has agreed with the US to reduce emissions sharply by 2030. It’s part of its strategy to transform its energy structure. Solar power is just one type of new energy the country is pursuing. Yet it requires huge amounts of water and can cause environmental damage. Today in our special series Half Empty, reporter Han Bin looks at the difficult balancing act -- and high price -- of reducing emissions.

Fueling the country's development. This is one of China’s biggest coal mines. It can produce some 15 million tons a year. Supplying the energy comes at a high cost --- huge amounts of water, and combustion emissions. But coal-fired plants are still the energy pillars of China’s economy.

Director Liu Congying says modern technology reduces damage to the environment. And a new mining model is being adopted.

"Our aim is to change from the old production means of heavy pollution and high waste, to a more green production method by reducing energy waste and increasing recycling," said Liu Congying, director of Datong Coal Mine Group, Shanxi Province.

This major step is pushed by the new policy to reduce dependence on the black energy of coal. The goal is to ensure an environmentally-friendly power supply. Renewable energy, like solar could be one answer.

We've been given access to one of China’s most modern factories in the solar sector. The company was a national pioneer back in 1998. Today, its products are welcome worldwide.

Though a major global polluter, China is now the largest investor in green energy. It provides some 70 percent of all solar panels. And it’s planning to greatly expand solar energy use in its own development. Chief Engineer Song Dengyuan sees it as a renewable option, which also reduces emissions.

"Our technology can guarantee that the energy used to create one solar panel can be recouped within one year. And one solar panel has an optimum working life of 25 years," said Song Dengyuan, Chief Engineer of Yingli Green Energy Holding Company Limited.

China is short on water resources, but solar energy is abundant. The country’s increasingly ambitious green energy goals, and commitments to reduce carbon emissions mean leading solar manufacturers like this one will have the most to gain. "

But everything has a cost, even though sunshine seems to be free. Like coal mining, creating solar products consumes electricity and water. And pollution can be a big problem. The discharge is extremely toxic.

This factory has strict water pollution controls. It costs some 20 million yuan a year -- that’s over 3 million US dollars. China’s development demands an endless cycle of energy growth. Its coal-based economy is fast changing, with a priority on finding clean energy solutions.

But for the foreseeable future, black energy will remain China’s most important fuel until renewable energy becomes more competitive. What the country is doing, will both determine the resources it can save and how much damage to the planet it can avoid.

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