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Leading group to oversee energy sector
By Fu Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-03-07 07:40

The government will set up a national leading group to oversee China's energy industry but is unlikely to establish a ministry of energy "within the foreseeable future," leading to criticism not enough is being done for the key sector.

The Minister of Water Resources Wang Shucheng updated China Daily with the central government's latest decision to alter the country's energy governance.

"The government will set up a national leading group to oversee energy, but there is no timetable on forming an energy ministry," said Wang in an exclusive interview.

Wang himself has been calling for such a ministry for some time. He believes energy is of such importance in China's development that the State Council should have a special ministry to oversee it with total assets of more than 10 trillion yuan (US$1.2 trillion).

Experts agreed with the central government's decision but said "the step was far from enough."

While echoing Wang's proposal, Zhang Jianyu, a visiting scholar with Tsinghua University, urged the forming of a ministry to co-ordinate energy governance.

"The government's decision to set up a leading group is a major step forward but is far from enough," said Zhang. "The leading group is a temporary office and is still weak compared with the importance of the sector."

An energy and environmental expert widely involved in national policy consulting, Zhang said the energy issue is not only closely linked to domestic policies but also to diplomacy.

"We should have a cabinet ministry and invest more human resources in mapping out and realizing an energy blueprint," added Zhang.

The US, for example, has an actual energy ministry and has paid very close attention to energy governance.

But in China, only a 20-strong staff with the energy bureau, set up in 2003 under the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) to look at the growing energy shortage, govern the populous country's energy sector.

China's former Ministry of Energy, set up in 1988, was dismissed in 1993 because its administrative functions overlapped with other departments.

But critics insist the bureau has failed to reduce the shortage, especially the lack of electricity nationwide since the summer of 2003.

Wang has urged enhanced efforts to co-ordinate coal, electricity and oil management, map out energy strategies and promote energy saving.

Wang said the government is speeding up the construction of hydroelectric and nuclear power plants to help ease the reliance on coal, a heavy polluter.

Despite the huge investment, Wang said China's development will still face barriers in energy, water and land shortages in the coming years.

"Saving energy should top the agenda of the government's leading office," said Wang.

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