China misses 2019 energy efficiency target: state planner

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is seen on a screen as he delivers a speech at the opening session of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China May 22, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China fell short of its energy efficiency goals in 2019, cutting the energy consumed per unit of gross domestic product by 2.6%, lower than its target of 3%, the country’s state planning agency said on Friday in a report to parliament.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) attributed the failure to “the rapid growth of steel, building materials, non-ferrous metals, chemicals, and the service sector”.

China aims to cut energy intensity by 15% from 2015-2020, but experts said it might struggle to meet the target as it concentrates on more energy-intensive projects in the second half of 2020.

The NDRC said it had completed 87.1% of the 2015-2020 target by the end of last year, and was still “in line with the scheduled reduction for this period”.

“Much hard work will be required in order to achieve the target,” the NDRC added, saying the coronavirus epidemic that was first detected in China late last year would cut economic growth more than it cuts energy consumption.

It said other major environmental goals for the year were met, with the amount of carbon dioxide emissions per unit of economic growth cut by 4.1%, beating its 3.6% target.

The NDRC also vowed to upgrade more steel firms in order to cut their pollution levels. Around 60% of steel firms should comply with ultra-low emissions standards by the end of this year, and 80% by the end of 2025, according to targets set in 2019.

The agency also promised prudent and safe development of new hydropower and nuclear projects, and said it would maintain the pace of new wind and solar plant construction in order to ensure that non-fossil fuels become “the major contributor to energy consumption growth”.

Reporting by David Stanway and Zhang Min; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell