Since 2009, China has surpassed the US as the world’s biggest consumer of energy and the main emitter of green house gasses, according to the International Energy Agency.
China’s current five-year plan, which had been focused on improving the energy efficiency of the economy by 20%, is quickly drawing to a close.
Initially, the outlook was hopeful as until last year, the country measured a 14.4% gain.
By measuring energy use via relative Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth, the target percentage was established as the very least level China could contribute towards battling greenhouse emissions.
But this year, especially in the first three months of 2010, huge expenditures involving energy-intensive steel and cement infrastructure projects propelled the economy upward, but at the cost of having to burn more coal for yuan of productivity.
Over the summer, the two most industrially active provinces, Zhejiang and Jiangsu, began to irregularly cut the power supplies to factories. And they are not alone, as other regions have also adopted similar measures on local levels.
In Hebei Province, Anping County has adopted radical measures to achieve China’s intense effort to improve the environment and shift away from the waste of energy so long in effect. For 22 hours every three days, authorities cut electricity to homes, factories and public buildings.
The problem was that these indiscriminate cuts impacted industrial sectors and poor rural communities alike.
“We don’t have many electrical appliances in our home so it didn’t affect me that much. We just had to hang around because we couldn’t watch TV as usual,” said Mr. Liu, a farmer in the village of Liukou.
Media attention brought a public apology and return to normal energy use for residents.
A new, more scientific approach is definitely needed and is in the works.
“We will achieve this goal even if it means losing GDP growth,” promised prime minister, Wen Jiabao.
Can China’s economy become bigger, but healthier and more efficient?
The challenge of making up for lost ground remains with the moments ticking away until the end of the year.
The world waits.