Energy and environment were two equally discussed topics at the Jiuzhai Paradise International Environment Forum held late last year.
After the forum, the All-China Environment Federation, the forum's sponsor, has summarized experts and officials' proposal and submitted the proposal to the State Environmental Protection Administration.
Officials and experts from the sector put forth a constructive proposal which took into account the relationship between the two.
First, in the short run, it is not possible for China to change its energy structure based on coal. Coal will continue to play an irreplaceable role in energy consumption.
At present, coal mines across the country discharge more than 2.2 billion tons of pit water annually. Of this, less than 20 percent is treated. Most pit water is left untreated and discharged directly, a major pollutant and a waste of water resource. China's coal mining industry now produces 25 percent of the total waste water of the country.
This makes it essential to monitor pollutant discharge from coal mines.
Experts suggest that the government work out related policies to speed the construction of facilities for coal mine sewage treatment.
A number of small-sized coal mines are now operating at low resource recycling rates ranging between 10 to 25 percent. This greatly shortens the number of years for viable coal resource development.
Many of these small-sized coal mines produce high-sulphur high-dust coal, damage the environment and have high accident rates. They should be shut down. Scaled mines with high efficiency, good safety facilities and matching environmental equipment should be encouraged and the bar for market access raised.
High-gas content mines account for 48 percent of China's coal mines. Together, they discharge between 10 to 14 billion cubic meters of mine bed gas. The main content of the gas is CH4. A pure form of natural gas, this is a source of clean energy.
Experts at the forum proposed that China advocate and popularize joint development and comprehensive utilization of coal and gas in the fields of power generation, coal chemistry and civil use.
Experts suggest that in the coming 15 years, all provinces that have coal mines should carry out mine bed gas retrieval and utilization projects. This will reduce air pollution, minimize safety hazards in coal mining and provide a new source of energy.
Steps to save
Over the next 20 years, the power industry, particularly the thermal power sector, will be the fastest growing energy sector in China. Hence, pollution control at power generation facilities will go a long way in reducing sulphur dioxide discharge and acid rain.
While China is a big energy producer, it also wastes a great deal of energy. Its energy utilization rate is far lower than that of developed countries. For instance, Japan consumes 0.09 tons of oil to create US$1,000 worth of gross domestic product (GDP). In China, the consumption is 1.1 tons, 12 times that of Japan.
Luxury-style energy consumption has also worsened pressure on China's energy resources. At the forum, experts called for reasonable consumption of energy, enhancement of comprehensive utilization and building an energy-saving society.
Energy resource saving, it was proposed, should be promoted to the level of state policy so as to enhance awareness in society.
It was also suggested that reasonable consumption be included in the sustainable development strategy of the country.
Industries that consume vast amounts of energy should work out rules to save energy and strengthen self-discipline.
Meanwhile, the state should, in accordance with the practical situation of industrial development, set up goals for annual energy saving, gradually raise standards and reduce unit energy cost. Industries that fail to achieve energy-saving and cost-reducing quotas should be punished.
Different areas should set up regional energy-consumption standards based on their average consumption levels.
With these measures in place, China can reduce energy consumption by up to 700 million tons of standard coal by the year 2020.
Regenerate to grow
In recent years, China's rapidly growing energy imports have caught the world's attention.
With below average per capita rates of resource possession, it is imperative that the country enhance the proportion of renewable energy in its energy structure.
Given this scenario, experts at the forum agree that China should actively develop renewable energy to optimize the energy structure.
A State Rural Green Energy Program to develop renewable energy in rural areas has been put forth as a key measure.
The focus will be on maximizing efficiency of rural energy consumption. The purpose of the program is to enable farmers to afford clean renewable energy.
In the dry areas of northwestern China, solar power generation is a valid option. Research on power generation technology using organic waste and other biological materials should be pursued.
Exports foresee that in 10 to 15 years, all sewage plants treating sewage with a chemical oxygen demand (COD) content of more than 2,000 milligram/liter recycle the biological material for power generation.
It has been suggested that renewable energy power generation plants, de-sulphur power plants and rubbish-burning power plants be pushed forward with new power price policies
In addition, power generated by renewable energy power projects should be subject to preferential purchase policies.
(China Daily February 6, 2006)