BEIJING (Reuters) - China's top state planning agency pledged on Thursday to accelerate policies to promote cleaner and renewable sources of energy and tackle overcapacity in polluting industrial sectors.
China is trying to strike a balance between improving its environment, suffering from more than three decades of breakneck growth, and keeping its economy running at the pace required to maintain employment and stability.
The National Development and Reform Commision (NDRC) in its annual report published at the opening of the full session of parliament said it would implement policies aimed at reducing coal consumption and controlling the number of energy-guzzling projects in polluted regions.
"We will strive for zero-growth in the consumption of coal in key areas of the country," Premier Li Keqiang said in his government work report delivered to parliament on Thursday.
"Environmental pollution is a blight on people's quality of life and a trouble that weighs on their hearts," Li said.
The NDRC also said it would take action to boost the proportion of cleaner fuels, encourage the development and utilization of natural gas, and aggressively develop renewable wind, solar and biofuel energy sources.
"For areas affected by severe smog, regions where conserving energy is difficult, and industries with overcapacity, we will strictly control the number of energy-intensive projects and implement policies for reducing coal use, and for replacing coal with alternative energy sources," the report said.
While trying to cut the consumption of polluting fossil fuels to ease choking smog, the NDRC said it would take action to "turn the coal sector around".
Asian coal prices have strengthened this year but are still only about half levels of four years ago, and more than 70 percent of China's miners are said to be facing losses.
Beijing already implemented a series of measures last year aimed at propping up coal prices by curbing imports and controlling output.
China's top energy official, Nur Bekri, said in comments published by the National Energy Administration on Thursday that improving efficiency and environmental standards for coal would be a key component of China's energy policy this year.
He said the country would aim to raise wind power capacity to 200 gigawatts (GW) and solar to around 100 GW by 2020, up from 95.8 GW and 26.5 GW respectively at the end of last year.
China is also aiming to raise natural gas output, including coalbed methane and shale gas, to more than 245 billion cubic meters a year by the end of the decade, he said.
Overcapacity remains a problem in a number of sectors, such as steel and cement, and the NDRC said it would introduce more measures to encourage mergers and close outdated capacity.
According to Li's government work report, China will aim to cut energy intensity - the amount of energy used per unit of GDP growth - by 3.1 percent in this year.
The rate fell by 4.8 percent in 2014, and the government is on course to meet a 16 percent drop over the 2011-2015 period.
(Reporting by Aizhu Chen, Dominique Patton and Kathy Chen; Writing by David Stanway; Editing by Ed Davies and Tom Hogue)