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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 10:31, December 06, 2004
China Economic Review: China battles power crunch
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Economy cars will no longer be banned from China's urban high-speed roads, while houses built after 2005 are required to use high-tech, energy-efficient structures. Energy-thirsty China is embracing a package of measures to cope with its crippling power shortfall.

China's National Reform and Development Commission (NRDC) last week released a "guiding document for the energy saving work in the coming 15 years," said an official with NRDC, the state economic planner.

The move is the latest and the most comprehensive one concerning energy-saving for China, which is experiencing its worst energy shortage since the late 1980s.

Surging oil prices indicate the failure of China's oil supply to keep up with demand. In the first ten months of 2004, China has imported almost 100 million tons of crude oil. Experts estimate that about 40 percent of the year's oil consumption will come from imports.

Private cars are being explicitly discouraged in favor of buses, subways and bicycles. "Big cities will limit cars for their huge consumption of resources," says the plan.

Meanwhile, cars with a displacement below 1.0 liter will be allowed to travel on the famed Chang'an Avenue and ring roads in Beijing, said Zhao Jiarong, department director in charge of resource-saving, explaining the new rules encouraging economy cars.

Before, low-powered cars have been discouraged in some big Chinese cities. They were not allowed on certain roads for their comparatively slow speed.

China has taken a big step forward to reduce petroleum consumption by limiting automobiles. A regulation in October said cars weighing around one ton should burn no more than 8.9 liters of petroleum in the test of 100-km-run. By 2008, the upper limit should further decline to 8.1.

Houses, whose energy consumption will exceed other sectors in the coming years, are targeted in the plan as well. Buildings built after 2005 must embrace high technology and new methods that could save 50 percent of the energy per square meter compared with now, said the plan.

"For example, we will promote central heating system in residences and public buildings, and charge all the inhabitants according to the area equipped in each room," said Zhao, "just as what we are doing with the electricity now."

Construction Ministry statistics showed that energy-efficient construction in urban China has reached 320 million square meters in the past decade and helped decrease carbon dioxide emissions by 23.26 million tons.

Coal, the source of two thirds of the country's total energy consumption, will be primarily used to generate electricity later, said the plan. "In the coal-fired power plants with de-sulfur dioxide equipment, the utilization ratio of coal is high and the emission of sulfur pollution is reduced."

China's goal is to consume 1.54 tons of standard coal to produce 10,000 yuan of GDP by 2020, 1.14 tons fewer than now. The country will save 1.4 billion tons of standard coal by then, avoiding the emission of 21 million tons of sulfur dioxide, roughly the same amount of current year, he said.

"For a country with one third of its land suffering from acid rain, soaked in smoke and vehicle exhaust, that figure makes a big difference," he said.

Earlier NRDC report said that China will construct 13 major coal production bases to better exploit the coal resources and shut down as many small collieries as possible because of their huge waste.

To ensure its successful implementation, a large part of the document is devoted to the bonus for the companies thrifty in energy use or producing energy-efficient products. China will also come up with a list of energy-saving equipment and include them in the catalogue of government procurement.

"Previous policy has long focused on punishment, we hope the bonus plan will work this time and help create a social atmosphere for energy-saving," said Zhao.

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