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Redefining Energy Usage

Rather than just focusing on securing enough resources to sustain economic development, China's energy policy should elevate the importance of conservation and environmental protection over the next two years, according to experts. 

Such a transformation would be challenging and expansive, requiring billions of dollars of investment in upgrading oil refineries, installing sulfur-removal facilities in power plants, improving the efficiency of automobiles, and offering tax rebates to support clean energy, they said.


Chen Qingtai, deputy director of the Development Research Center under the State Council, said China's economy has relied too heavily on huge energy consumption, a situation that cannot be sustained due to dwindling domestic energy supplies and increased pollution.


"China plans to quadruple its economy by 2020. If we continue on the traditional growth path, energy consumption in China will surge to 3.3 billion tons of standard coal by 2020 from the current 1.4 billion tons. This means we will have to import over 60 percent of the oil we consume," Chen said yesterday at the China Energy Strategy and Reform of the China Development Forum.


He said the government should optimize the energy consumption configuration to increase the proportion of clean fuels such as natural gas and renewable energy sources.


If appropriate policies are adopted to improve conservation and optimize the consumption mix, China will keep its consumption at 2.5 billion tons of standard coal by 2020 and reduce coal from its current 67 percent of the energy mix to 60 percent, said Chen.


The high-profile forum comes at a time when China is drafting its first long-term energy policy in nearly half of the century, with domestic and international experts lobbying the government to adopt policies favoring sustainable development.


Experts said there is great potential for China to increase energy efficiency through proper technology and economic incentives for conservation and for clean energy.


But they also expressed concerns about whether the target can be met.


Eddu Hassing, an energy expert with the Asian Development Bank, said there is no level playing field for renewable energy because coal is much cheaper.


Hassing said it is becoming particularly difficult for power companies to invest in clean coal technology, and the government's efforts to increase competition among power companies will make them reluctant to increase their commitment to environmentally friendly procedures.


(Xinhua News Agency November 17, 2003)

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