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Beijing to launch clean energy plan

Ananth Krishnan

— PHOTO: Xinhua

Green lighting: Energy-saving bulbs at the China International Energy Saving and Environmental Protection Exhibition 2009 in Beijing last week.

BEIJING: Ten million energy-saving lamps will be distributed on the streets of Beijing starting Monday in one of the largest ever energy conversion exercises of its kind.

With soaring power costs in China, the government estimates replacing incandescent lamps with energy-saving alternatives could save $35 million a year in electricity bills, said the Beijing Municipal Commission of Development and Reform on Saturday.

Over the next two months, its officers will trawl Beijing’s streets making their case to the city’s residents.

The government has struggled to encourage residents in cities to swap incandescent bulbs for greener alternatives given the relatively higher costs of energy-efficient lamps. But this initiative will make the lamps available for sale at a much-reduced price of just 1 Yuan (Rs. 7) — 10 per cent of the market price.

The energy conversion programme is part of the Chinese government’s plan to distribute 100 million energy-friendly light bulbs in cities across China this year. The programme is partly funded by China’s massive $586 billion stimulus package, which allocated $30 billion exclusively for green energy projects.

Achieving a significant reduction in electricity consumption in urban households is crucial for China to reach its ambitious target of producing one-fifth of all its energy needs from renewable energy by 2020. Lighting accounts for 19 per cent of the country’s energy needs, according to the Joint U.S.-China Cooperation on Clean Energy (JUCCCE), a non-profit organisation that is working to promote clean energy and energy efficiency in China.

The organisation estimates that 10 million energy-saving lamps will eliminate the need for ten 50-megawatt coal-fired plants and save about 3.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over four and half years. Improving energy efficiency has become a priority for the Chinese government. In spite of huge investments in renewable energy, coal consumption in China still grew by 7 per cent last year, even as prices rose, and accounted for 43 per cent of global coal consumption.

The government envisages the energy conversion programme as one important way of controlling consumption in cities. The local government in Beijing began a “green lighting” project in 2004. Since then, around 3 million energy-efficient lamps have been installed in public service buildings, mainly government offices, schools and hospitals.

Large-scale operation

But this project will for the first time bring energy-efficient lamps to Chinese households on such a large scale.

The JUCCCE is leading a similar campaign in Shanghai, where the organisation, working with the Shanghai municipal government, is distributing 10 million energy-saving lamps free of cost to the city’s residents. Starting in April 2008, the Chinese government introduced subsidies on energy-efficient light bulbs of 30 per cent on wholesale and 50 per cent on retail purchases.

According to a recent report by the Centre for American Progress, an estimated 62 million bulbs had been subsidised by January 2009, saving an estimated 3.2 billion kilowatt hours of electricity annually, or roughly 5 per cent of the annual energy consumption of a city like Beijing.

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