China has made remarkable progress in rural electrification in the last decade. The additional 36 million people getting access to electricity in the period of 1998-2012 made its electrification rate at over 99.7% by 2012. Yet there are still 2.73 million people without access to electricity, mostly scattered in the very remote areas in the western region, which is considered as the most challenging part of universal access to electricity in the country. Some studies indicated that the average cost to provide access to electricity in such areas can be as high as CNY42,000 (USD6,800) per household and operation and maintenance costs are very high to ensure long-term reliable power supply.

To crack this most difficult nut in rural electrification, the National Energy Administration (NEA) of China recently launched a three-year action plan aiming for universal access to electricity in the country by 2015. According to the plan, 1.54 million people would be covered through grid extension and 1.19 million people would benefit from independent photovoltaic power supply solutions. The program consists of 583 projects with a total investment of CNY29.4 billion (USD4.76 billion), making the average electrification cost at roughly CNY10,000 (USD1,743) per beneficiary person. While the construction costs would be shared by the government and involved electricity enterprises, likely on the basis of 80:20, 50:50, and 20:80 depending on project location, the operation and maintenance costs would be solely borne by the enterprises, mostly state-owned enterprises. Further information is available at the official website of NEA (in Chinese language only).