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Nation Gears Up for Energy Crunch

The State Council has said that China will improve macroeconomic regulation and control to ease energy and transport shortages this summer. Premier Wen Jiabao presided over the June 4 executive meeting.

While supplies of coal, oil, electricity and transport service have grown rapidly since the beginning of this year, shortfalls will remain serious as power consumption rises to its summer peak.


The State Council decided that improved macroeconomic regulation and control are fundamental to easing the shortage. Blind investments and wasteful duplication in some industries must be curbed and irrational demand reduced.


The State Council decided to implement the following measures:


n       Control demand for electricity to ensure supplies for daily living, agriculture, and key industries, and restrict power consumption by energy-intensive and polluting industries;

n       Regulate demand by setting different use rates;

n       Improve distribution to make optimal use of existing power supply facilities;

n       Improve coal supply to areas experiencing power shortages;

n       Accelerate construction of energy and transport projects to expand supply;

n       Improve energy efficiency;

n       Stepping up planning for construction of energy and transport facilities; and

n       Ensuring safety and security of energy production, supply and transport.  


As the seat of the central government, Beijing should lead the way in energy conservation. With the summer power crunch drawing near, the Beijing Municipal Commission of Development and Reform has already turned off the air conditioners in its offices between 6:00 PM and 7:00 AM.


Some see the move as a mere symbolic gesture, but the commission is dead set on reminding people in the capital of worsening power shortages hitting the area as hotter weather approaches.


In previous summers, air conditioning in the commission office building has remained on around the clock. But an official told the Beijing Morning Post that the seriousness of the situation requires a change.


Peak demand for electricity this summer is expected to be 15 percent greater than last year, setting a new record high.


Officials have proposed that at least 23 star-rated hotels in Beijing set the standard room temperature at 23 degrees Celsius instead of 22. Such an adjustment should ensure comfort for guests while reducing energy usage. Raising the temperature of all air conditioner thermostats by 1 degree is expected to save as much as 320 million kilowatt-hours citywide.


This proposal was made in response to an appeal from the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2008 Summer Games to be a “green” event.


Most air conditioners in public places in the capital areas set at 22 degrees, but people are beginning to indicate that temperatures between 24 and 28 degrees might be just as comfortable.


Air conditioners suck up 40 percent of the total electricity consumption in the city in summer.


The price of electricity used by industry, commerce and hotels is expected to increase this month and continue through August. The plan has been submitted to the State Development and Planning Commission for approval, sources with the Beijing municipal government said, but the exact amount of the increase has not yet been announced.


Two-thirds of Beijing’s electricity supply is transmitted from other regions, including the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and Hebei, Shanxi and Shandong provinces.


Now those areas are dealing with their own power shortages, making it more difficult for them to support the power-hungry capital’s needs.


The Beijing Electricity Supply Company has invested 1.3 billion yuan (US$152 million) to upgrade 11 electricity transmission lines to meet demand this summer.


Energy consumption in public institutions in China counts for 5 percent of the total. The usage could be cut by up to 20 percent if energy-saving measures are taken.


(China Daily, Xinhua News Agency June 8, 2004)

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