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China faces uphill battle in achieving energy conservation target

08-18-2010 15:21 BJT

HANGZHOU, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) -- To many Chinese officials at the county and city levels, the newly released half-year evaluation reports on energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) make for grim reading.

Sun Yunyao, head of Shaoxing County Government in east China's Zhejiang Province, a developed coastal region which consumes a large amount of energy for manufacturing, has had to introduce a series of tough measures to curb high energy usage in this decisive year.

Just days ago, Sun signed a letter of commitment with Shaoxing city government to shut down inefficient enterprises in his county. By Sept. 15, major energy-guzzling factories -- from paper mills to leather makers -- must all be closed down.

Sun feels stressed. The Chinese government has promised to cut the country's energy consumption by 20 percent per unit of GDP in the five years from the start of 2006. This year is the final one in the period.

Although the past four years saw the national energy consumption figure decline by 14.8 percent, the recovering economy disrupted the positive trend, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

Zhejiang set the target for energy reduction per unit of GDP at 3.2 percent for 2010. However, only a 1 percent was achieved in the first half of the year.

"This means we have to take a tougher approach in the days left in the year." said Cong Peijiang, official with Zhejiang Economic Information Technology Commission.

The dilemma is not unique to Zhejiang. Saving energy is a huge task testing most parts of the country. As statistics from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology show, energy consumption has risen per unit of GDP in 12 provinces and autonomous regions.

In the less developed Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, energy consumption per unit of GDP in the first quarter of the year rose by 6 percent, far in excess of the year's 3 percent deduction target.

Analysts have attributed the rise to the strong rebound of the Chinese economy. Because of stimulus measures and confidence in the economy, capital has poured into the economy -- creating and expanding businesses.

"Many of those (business) projects are the high-energy consuming ones, which are the chief culprit for the increased energy consumption," said Cheng Huifang, professor with Zhejiang University of Technology.

In the coal-dependent Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the local government has failed to meet energy consumption targets for four consecutive years.

"No matter how well other economic indicators perform, if we fail to meet the energy consumption target, our economic achievements during the 11th five-year-period will be reduced to nothing," said Lu Zushan, governor of Zhejiang Province. He urged all relevant governmental departments to introduced measures to ensure the annual energy saving target is met.

As a part of efforts to save energy, China shut down small coal-fuelled power plants with a total generating capacity of 54.07 million kilowatts from 2006 to the end of June this year, according to the National Energy Administration.

Earlier this month, the National Development and Reform Commission, China's top economic planner, scrapped all preferential electricity rates granted by 22 provincial governments to high energy-consuming enterprises.

Cheng Huifang warned that there was no way back for officials and entrepreneurs at any level. They must push for energy conservation as there are less than five months left.

"It is quite a long-term obligation for China to restructure its economy. The country must replace energy-intensive industries with low-energy-consuming and high-value-added ones," said Professor Cheng.

Editor:Xiong Qu |Source: Xinhua

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