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Just as a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, the tough energy control battle in China's offices has started with a simple thrust - a change in the dress code.

Several leaders of the State Council recently called on office workers to dress causally instead of in formal suits.

Wearing light clothing such as T-shirts makes it possible for airconditioners to be turned down in offices.

The call came after a recent cabinet order that the temperature of China's public buildings must not go above 26 C in summer.

The order to cut energy use applies to all schools, office buildings, supermarkets, restaurants, shopping malls, government agencies and private owners of public buildings.

According to Fan Xuecheng, a cabinet official in charge of supervising energy conservation within government bureaus, airconditioners account for about 30 to 50 percent of the total power consumption of office buildings in summer.

"So there remains the huge task of energy control during summer," Fan said.

In another move, the central government on Tuesday ordered all airconditioners of government buildings to be turned off for the day as a gesture to show its determination to cut energy consumption.

"It was just a gesture. But it taught us the value and importance of energy and how we would feel without it," said Zhao Hong, an official with the State Administration of Taxation.

At least 300 million kilowatt-hours of electricity could be saved, 10 percent of electric loads reduced, and 150 million yuan ($19.7 million) in electricity bills in summer saved if the airconditioners in Beijing's public buildings were to be set to 26 C, reported the People's Daily Online.

The cabinet imposed the limit ahead of expected increased demand this summer which could lead to power cuts.

China's demand for energy has soared in line with its economic development.

A power cut hit parts of Shanghai last week. And based on past experience, more are expected this summer.

Promoted since 2005, the "26 C" battle in summer is not the only rule the country has implemented to cut energy consumption in workplaces.

They also include calling on people not to take lifts to the first three floors of a building, walking to work or taking public transport instead of private cars.

(China Daily June 14, 2007)

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