To cope with crippling energy shortages, a 15-year energy saving plan was announced at a news conference on Tuesday.
Zhao Jiarong, director of the department of environment resources conservation under the National Development and Reform Commission, described the plan as the biggest and most ambitious one of its kind in China's history.
Goals have been set to reduce coal consumption to 2.25 tons per 10,000 yuan (US$1,200) of GDP by 2010 - 0.43 tons less than in 2002 - and 1.54 tons by 2020.
All buildings built after 2006 will need to use measures that could save 50 percent of energy consumption per square meter.
"We will promote metered central heating systems in residences and public buildings, as we do with electricity now," said Zhao.
Existing buildings will also be adapted, especially hotels in northern China, to reduce consumption. By 2010, the work will be complete in 25 percent of big city areas, 15 percent of medium cities and 10 percent of small cities.
"We will come up with a list of energy-saving products and include them in the catalogue of government procurement," said Zhao.
China has the potential to save 300 million tons of standard coal each year, she said. The country consumed 1.51 billion tons in 2002.
Zhao attributed high consumption to slow tertiary development, outdated equipment and poor management in factories.
Energy consumption per unit output of tertiary industries is only 43 percent of that of secondary industries. But the value of the tertiary sector accounted for only one third of GDP, thirty percentage points lower than the world average.
"Therefore, we should speed up the development of tertiary industries," said Zhao.
To make good use of China's resources, Zhao said the coal should primarily be used to generate electricity.
"In coal-fired power plants with sulfur dioxide-removing equipment, the utilization ratio of coal is high and sulfur dioxide pollution is reduced, " said Zhao.
Zhao said petroleum should be used for chemical production, transportation and other purposes where there is no alternative.
"We should try to use clean coal and natural gas to replace petroleum," she said.
"We find that in developed countries, cars with low displacements are often encouraged for low pollution, but it is a pity that in some parts of China, this kind of car can not go on the speedway."
(Xinhua News Agency November 26, 2004)