Thermal, hydro and nuclear power industries are the fastest growing of all industrial sectors. At the end of 2004, the installed capacity of generators totaled 440 million kw, and the total generated electricity came to 2,187 billion kwh, ranking second in the world.
Power grid construction has entered its fastest ever development; main power grids now cover all the cities and most rural areas, with 500-kv grids beginning to replace 220-kv grids for inter-province and inter-region transmission and exchange operations. An international advanced control automation system with computers as the mainstay has been universally adopted, and has proved practical. Now China's power industry has entered a new era featuring large generating units, large power plants, large power grids, ultra-high voltage and automation.
Starting in the 1980s, China has invested hugely into creating a number of large-scale modern coalmines, contributing to the gradual increase of coal output, maintained at more than one billion tons annually since 1989. China now has the ability to design, construct, equip, and administer 10-million-ton opencast coalmines and large and medium-sized mining areas. China's coal washing and dressing technologies and abilities have constantly improved and coal liquefaction and underground gasification are being introduced.
Petroleum and natural gas are important energy resources. For eight years running from 1997 to 2004, annual crude oil output exceeded 160 million tons, ranking fifth in the world. Oil industry development has accelerated the growth of local economies and related industries, such as machinery manufacturing, iron and steel industries, transport and communications. In 1996, China's natural gas output surpassed 20 billion cu m, a figure that has increased steadily over the following years, reaching 41.49 billion cu m in 2004.
In 2004, China's nuclear-power-generated electricity topped 50 billion kwh, setting a record high. By 2020, China will build 36-million-kw nuclear power facilities, in addition to the 8.7-million-kw nuclear power generation capacity already in use and under construction.
To relieve the shortage of energy supplies that fetters China's economic growth, China is developing new energy resources, such as wind, solar, geothermal, and tidal power. Its abundant wind energy resources give China the potential for mass-produced wind power. Between 2001 and 2005, the government invested 1.5 billion yuan in the wind power industry. Some 200,000 small wind generators already play an important power generation role in agricultural and pastoral areas and according to government targets the national installed capacity of wind generators is to increase by one million kw every year, reaching 20 million kw by 2020. Given northern China's rich wind energy resources, its wind power industry has attracted domestic and overseas investment and Asia's largest wind power station, with an investment of 10 billion yuan and a capacity of one million kw, will be completed in Inner Mongolia before 2008. Meanwhile, in western China, with a radiation flux of three thousand kwh per day, solar energy has been widely utilized. Asia's largest demonstration base for solar heating and cooling technologies in Yuzhong County, Gansu Province, has become the training center of applied solar technologies for developing countries.