China tells provinces to up guzzlers' power tariffs
BEIJING, April 16 (Reuters) - China's top economic planning agency has ordered provincial governments to fall in line with its policy of charging energy-guzzling industries more for electricity, the official Xinhua news agency said on Monday. The National Development and Reform Commission told local governments they had until the end of the month to implement a directive it introduced in September, which raised power prices for energy-intensive industries including cement, aluminium, steel and ferro-alloy, Xinhua said. Not only had many local governments failed to implement the measures properly, but 14 of them continued to offer preferential power tariffs for such industries, Xinhua said. Xinhua did not name the provinces, but said that inspection teams would visit them in May to check on their progress in implementing the measures. Those that failed to comply could see applications for new power plants rejected, it said. Grid companies that flouted the measures would also be punished, with individual managers held individually responsible, it said. China aims to cut the amount of energy it uses per dollar of national income by 20 percent by 2010 as part of a drive to curb growing pollution and dependence on foreign oil, but failed to meet its target last year. It has recently stepped up efforts to improve efficiency in the power sector, saying earlier this year that it would require firms that want to build new coal-fired power plants to shut down smaller, older generating units at the same time. In a sign of its growing clout, the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) announced in January that it had suspended new environmental permits for many companies, including power firms Huaneng Group and China Guodian Corp. It later lifted the ban on the two firms after they shut down or cleaned up polluting plants.