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Energy use to double by 2020, report says
By Fu Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-11-25 22:09

China plans to double its energy consumption as its economy quadruples by 2020, officials say.

Up to 1.4 billion tons of standard coal, an amount nearly equal to energy consumed by the nation last year, should be saved by 2020 when China meets its target of an all-around well-off society.

With an annual savings rate of 3 per cent, China's energy consumption is expected to reach 3 billion tons of standard coal in 2020.

The goals are included in a medium- and long-term energy savings plan unveiled yesterday by National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), a powerful State Council department that helps govern China's social and economic development.

Officials and experts urged concrete measures to reach the energy-savings goals while maintaining robust economic growth.

Zhao Jiarong, NDRC department director in charge of resources-savings, said energy-conservation efforts will by mainly involve sectors that include power generating, steel, petroleum, coal, communication and construction.

In the plan, Zhao's commission also requires that coal, a major energy resource consumed by China, will be mainly used to generate power, oil will be used as a power for transportation and chemical resources, while cities will be encouraged to burn natural gas for heating and other household uses.

Zhao said the plan has partly resulted from China's present worst energy crunch since the late 1980s.

Two-thirds of the nation's area have been afflicted with brownouts and regular blackouts since last year. Supply failures are attributed to insufficient construction of new power plants over the past few years, and rampant consumption increases in energy-intensive sectors industries such as the steel, aluminum, cement and chemical industries.

Zhao's commission is worried that energy shortages and increasing imports will become bottleneck economic growth and become a threat to the environment and national security.

She said China has great potential to improve its energy efficiency and to alleviate the impact of energy supply shortfalls.

According to an official report, China spends 13 per cent of its GDP on energy consumption, almost double the US level. In the booming housing sector, for instance, only 2.5-5 per cent of new houses meet energy conservation standards.

Experts agree the new plan is a sign the Chinese Government is facing up to the challenge and is working to develop a sustainable economy.

"China's big challenge over the next 20 years will be a shortage of resources, especially an energy shortage," Zhang Jianyu, head of the Beijing Office of the US-based non-governmental environmental organization, Environmental Defence, told China Daily.

He said the plan shows the good will of the government but more time and energy should be invested into enforcement, with additional governmental departments joining in the effort.

"Enforcement of the plan may be more challenging," said Zhang.

Zhang said China still faces challenges in the energy savings endeavor since there is a lack of economic incentive as well as legal enforcement to make energy conservation efforts rewarding.

Huang Shengchu, president of the China Coal Information Institute said China should optimize its economic structure, relying less on energy-intensive industries such as steel and aluminum. "There should be a balance between industrialization and energy consumption," said Huang.

He suggested the State continue its macro-economic policies to cool investment in some sectors, especially high energy-consuming plants, such as those producing steel and cement.

Some of those enterprises have launched their own power-generating facilities independent of the national grids. But many often consume exorbitant amounts of energy and operate with low efficiency and should be closed.

Huang also said energy efficiency should be emphasized in power generation. The coal consumption per kilowatt hour in Chinese power plants is 22 per cent more than that of the United States.

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