After a year-and-a-half of deliberation and revision, China's top legislature adopted an amendment to the Law on Conserving Energy on October 28. The amendment, which will come into effect on April 1 next year, is the first amendment to the law in 10 years.
Energy consumption of China has kept rising with its rapid economic development in recent years, and the level of energy use has begun to pose a threat to sustainable development, against the backdrop of global energy stress. With this in mind, China has set the goal of building an energy-efficient society that is largely self-sufficient in terms of energy consumption.
China has begun to focus more on energy saving while pooling great efforts to develop renewable energy resources. In a five-year plan to 2010, China pledged to reduce its energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by 20 percent, or 4 percent annually. However, it actually fell by just 1.2 percent last year.
The old Law on Conserving Energy, which came into effect in 1997, had become outdated, thus leading the government to the inevitable choice of amending it to better serve the country's energy needs.
The revised version retains the principle of paying equal attention to developing new energy and conservation, and upgrades the energy conservation policy, which used to be a long-term economic strategy, to a basic national policy.
"Energy saving goals will be made part of the performance rating of local governments and their leaders," said Li Mingzhi, an economic expert who is involved in the revision.
In his opinion, the government should bear key responsibility for implementing the energy saving policy. The law amendment introduced a responsibility and assessment system to help accomplish the country's energy saving goals.
New entities have been included under the amendment ranging from the construction sector to transportation, while the old law only held industrial enterprises responsible for energy conservation. According to recent figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics, of all China's energy consumption, the amount consumed by the construction industry, transportation sector and government institutions accounted for 28 percent, 16 percent and 7 percent respectively.
The revised law also requires property developers to inform buyers of energy saving measures in each building for sale. This obligation has to be stated in the property quality certificate and also in contract papers.
Other new regulations stipulate that projects which fail to meet energy conservation standards should not be given approval to construction, that projects already under construction but fail to meet energy conservation standards should be halted, and that below-standard buildings cannot be sold.
Difficulties in promoting energy conservation in China lie mostly in a lack of initiative. Despite continuous efforts on the part of the government, energy consumers have been unwilling or unable to take practical action due to the cost of energy conservation.
To change this passive situation, the revised law has employed incentives to spur initiative through taxation, lower prices, loans and government procurement. For example, financial institutions are encouraged to increase credit aid to support the development of energy-saving technology and the production of energy-efficient products.
Energy producers such as electricity and oil companies are required not to provide their employees with free energy resources. Violation of these regulations results in a penalty of 50,000-200,000 yuan.
According to Dai Yande, Deputy Director General of the Energy Research Institute of the National Development and Reform Commission, the revision will not only help change the current situation of indifference, but also ensure the accomplishment of China's energy-saving goal for the current Five-Year Plan period (2006-10).