China Power

Saving Energy, China Style

Officials in some provinces have ordered power cuts to meet targets on energy consumption.

What do you do if you’re a provincial leader in China and you think you won’t meet your energy targets? Face the music from your superiors? Learn your lesson on how you can do better next time? Or unilaterally stop electricity for much of the day to factories, traffic lights and hospitals?

According to the Beijing Times, some counties in the north-eastern province of Hebei have opted for the latter. A report yesterday cites local officials as stating that they decided to shut off power for extended periods after only managing a cut of 0.9 percent in their energy consumption in the first six months of this year, despite having been set a target of 6.6 percent for the entire year.

But Hebei isn’t the only province to be hit by cuts. Last month, AFP reported that officials in Anhui Province ordered the closure of more than 500 factories across eight cities, with at least one plant being told that it would be closed for a month just two days before the blackout was imposed.

Understandably, this didn’t go down well with the firms operating the factories, with one cement plant official reportedly complaining:

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‘We are quite worried because several tons of coating material will be wasted if we do not put them into production as soon as possible…We are also anxious because we will not be able to complete several orders.’

The moves came after industry bosses warned more than 2000 firms that they should close obsolete facilities or else risk having government approval suspended. The decision appears to have been based partly on a desire for more energy-efficient production, but also a goal of cutting excess production capacity.

The China Daily reported last month that Li Yizhong, Minister of Industry and Information Technology, warned  that companies failing to do so before the deadline would have their waste discharge licenses revoked and that ‘bank loans and new project approvals from the government would not be provided to those companies who failed to clean up.’

It added that failing firms ‘wouldn’t get approval from land management authorities to apply for more new land for their projects, while production licenses would also be recalled by relative authorities.’ It also quoted Li as saying: ‘Outdated capacities consume energies heavily, pollute the environment, and are safety risks. They reflect the very crude and quantitative mode of economic growth.’

Of course it’s all very well meeting targets, but it goes without saying that unilaterally shutting down facilities is hardly going to encourage long-term, sustainable solutions to energy efficiency.

One would hope that someone, somewhere will take the time to look behind the raw numbers so such action won’t be rewarded. After all, they only need to pick up a newspaper to find out.