China is encouraging officials to spare some of their attention, usually focused on GDP growth, for energy conservation.
Zhejiang, an economically booming province in the country's east, has decided to add energy efficiency to the evaluation system on local officials' performance.
Eleven mayors and 58 county heads in the province have recently been appointed as top officials in charge of local energy-saving work.
The new indicator is intended to encourage officials to score more by lowering enterprises' costs, promoting technological innovation and adjusting industrial structures for energy and ecological security, according to Lu Zushan, the province's governor.
The coastal province, like most developed areas in the country, is suffering from a sharp conflict between energy shortage and galloping economy.
The average per capita GDP in Zhejiang exceeded 3,400 U.S. dollars in 2005, while 95 percent of its resources relied on imports or transfer from other places in China.
The province has set a goal which requires the energy consumption per unit of GDP in 2010 decline by 15 percent from 2005, Lu said.
Some government officials used to be indifferent to energy conservation, as exemplified by their ignorance of energy wasting in government buildings they worked every day.
A survey showed that the daily per capita electricity consumption by the provincial administration center building in 2004 was nine times that by residential buildings.
The building was later driven to upgrade its energy-saving measures, including raising the temperatures of air-conditions, using central heating system and power-saving lights.
In addition to Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Shandong, Hebei, Gansu provinces and Shanghai have also decided to evaluate officials' performance on energy conservation.
Chinese Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan called earlier this month for the establishment of a new evaluation system that relates energy-efficiency to the appraisal of local officials.
Zeng admitted that the current situation of energy-saving in China is worrying.
Governmental statistics show that from 2001 to 2005, the average growth rate of China's energy consumption was six percentage points higher than the country's economic growth rate.
Energy consumption per 10,000 U.S. dollars of economic output in China is 3.4 times of the world's average.
In March this year, Premier Wen Jiabao announced at the annual session of the National People's Congress that China will strive to cut its energy consumption per unit of GDP by 4 percent in 2006.
It was the first time that China has linked energy-efficiency with the economic growth index.
According to the 11th five-year development plan (2006-2010), China is determined to reduce energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20 percent in the coming five years, and change the country into a resources-saving and environment-friendly society.
China must reduce energy consumption per unit of GDP by an annual rate of at least 4.4 percent in a bid to fulfill the five-year target, experts said.
It is a good change for the country to encourage officials to take into consideration energy consumption while seeking economic growth, said Michael Enright, a professor with the Sun Hung Kai Business School of Hong Kong University.
"China can realize sustainable growth if it shifts to balance economic and social development," the professor said.
(Xinhua News Agency June 19, 2006)