When it comes to alternative energy, China is following the pattern established in many other sectors and is not doing things by halves.
Long known for its acute dependence on coal, which is used to generate more than 70 per cent of the country's electricity, China is investing billions in hydro, wind, solar and other forms of non-fossil fuel energy, keen to burnish its image after becoming the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in 2009.
"China is now leading the world in renewable-energy applications, especially wind power and solar power," says Yang Hong-xing, a professor and coordinator of the Renewable Energy Research Group at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. "The Chinese government is now spending a lot of money in these areas."
Last year, a total of US$48.9 billion (Dh179.61bn) was invested in green energy in China, almost a quarter of the world's total spending on alternative energy and more than any other country's expenditure on such technology, according to a report released in July by organisations including the UN Environment Programme.
China's 12th five-year plan, which gives a blueprint for national development from this year to 2015, indicates the scale of further investments.
The output capacity of hydropower plants is expected to grow from a total of 210 gigawatts at the end of last year to 290 gigawatts, although environmentalists have often criticised this sector.
Wind power capacity, which grew by 19.4 gigawatts last year, bringing the total to 42 gigawatts, is forecast to reach 100 gigawatts of installed capacity in 2015 and 150 gigawatts by 2020.
The total installed solar power capacity of 700 megawatts should increase to 10 gigawatts by 2015and to 20 gigawatts by 2020.
Projects to develop biomass, tidal and geothermal power are also in the pipeline. The country is also investing heavily in nuclear power stations, although there have been safety concerns because older technology is being used, and the Fukushima crisis in Japan has put a question mark over the scale of future investments.
Overall, wind and solar power and other new-technology renewables are expected to supply 15 per cent of China's electricity by 2020, up from just a few percentage points now. Currently, thermal power accounts for 73 per cent of China's electricity generation and hydropower 22 per cent.
Yet the rapid expansion of some renewable-energy sectors, notably wind, has brought problems. The electricity grid has struggled to deliver wind-generated electricity from the more sparsely populated western regions to the eastern and southern parts of the country, where more people live and the energy is needed.
In a briefing paper published this month, Melanie Hart, an analyst specialising in China's energy and climate policies at the Center for American Progress, a think tank in Washington, said the east-west energy problem was part of the reason behind a growing emphasis in China on solar power, which globally was worth $81.5bn last year.
New solar power projects, the report states, will often be smaller-scale schemes in the country's eastern and southern regions, and the hope is that smaller, more innovative, privately owned companies will secure a greater share of contracts, helping to promote technological development.
"Chinese leaders are betting that increasing private-sector participation will accelerate the overall market shift toward more advanced solar technologies," Ms Hart wrote.
As economies of scale come into play, the costs of some forms of renewable energy should fall. According to a government report, by 2015, the cost of generating electricity with solar technology in China could fall below 0.8 yuan (46 fils) per kilowatt hour, the same cost as for generating electricity from burning coal.
China hopes by 2020 to have cut its carbon footprint per unit of GDP by 40 to 45 per cent compared with the levels in 2005.
In Hong Kong, the authorities are also encouraging householders to consume less electricity. Suggested measures include using low-energy light bulbs.
"In Hong Kong, the government has a policy to encourage residents to replace traditional lighting devices with energy-saving devices," says Prof Yang. "They have also introduced policies for rating building and driving renewable-energy projects."
On the mainland, promoting energy conservation is a challenge, given that electricity is subsidised.
"In the big cities like Beijing or Shanghai or Guangzhou, I think some of the citizens are beginning to be concerned about [energy conservation], but there's not widespread concern [among] the Chinese citizenry," says Larry Chow, the director of the Hong Kong Energy Studies Centre at Hong Kong Baptist University.
The authorities are "afraid if they charge electricity according to the real price, some citizens will be deprived of electricity and that will create social unrest", he says.
On a wider level, environmentalists may feel little reason for cheer at China's energy trajectory, despite the huge investments in alternative-energy technologies.
The proportion of energy generated by coal may be set to decline in China - by 9 percentage points over the next five years, according to The Climate Group, an international environmental pressure organisation - but the actual amount will grow because overall energy consumption continues to increase.
According to the country's national energy administration, China's energy use last year was the equivalent of 3.2 billion tonnes of coal, and figures released by the British oil company BP showed the country's demand for energy rose 11.2 per cent.
"There are projections that even by the middle of the century, coal will still be supplying something like 50 per cent of all the energy," says Prof Chow. "The proportion contributed by coal will decline, and the proportion from renewable will increase, but renewable is starting from a small base."
The report from the Center for American Progress indicates there is considerable resistance among China's power-generating companies to putting greater emphasis on non-coal energy, because of higher costs.
Greater weight is being given to so-called clean coal and to carbon-capture technology in newer power plants, but the resulting one-quarter loss of efficiency makes these innovations unattractive to power companies.