A mayor in Shanxi turns coal capired sweatbands wristbandstal green

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A file photo of Wu Hongwen, mayor of Datong, Shanxi province. [Photo/Xinhua]

TAIYUAN-Visiting an impoverished village in the morning and attending a work conference in the afternoon, Wu Hongwen, the mayor of Datong, Shanxi province, was on his way to a local company to hear about their difficulties.

Since taking office in September, Wu has maintained a tight daily schedule. "He is resolute and efficient," a local official said.

Datong, famed for its ancient Buddhist rock carvings, became China"s "capital of coal" as demand for energy took off in the 1980s. The city experienced an extended boom and accumulated enormous wealth.

However, its heavy dependence on coal inevitably brought economic woe to Datong, as the country"s industrial transformation began. It found itself at the bottom among cities in the province in terms of economic development two years ago.

Many pinned their hopes on Wu to turn things around.

Before Wu"s arrival, Datong had built a 250-hectare panda-shaped solar farm that attracted global attention. Around the farm stood many wind turbines.

Wu said the city has bright prospects in energy production and vowed to continue to push it forward. There is more stimulus than stress and more opportunities than obstacles, he said.

"Striving for the best, or ending up as the worst-there aren"t many options," Wu said. With a clear vision for the city"s future, he is determined to transform the former capital of coal into a hub of clean energy.

Development of clean energy and elimination of excess capacity are a sure path to success, in Wu"s view. However, the transformation can take a toll on the local economy. To replace coal-related industries with other profitable projects, Wu made attracting investment a top priority.

Within his first three months in office, he organized 37 investment promotion meetings on 12 occasions outside of Datong and landed 17 major projects.

Six months later, work has begun on 176 new projects with a combined investment volume of over 160 billion yuan ($23.3 billion).

To offer an enabling business environment, the local government worked hard to improve services and made it easier for investors to start businesses in the city.

"It usually takes a year to get a project established and approved," said Chen Zhenhua, deputy general manager of Datong Zhengdao, a new energy automobile company. "But we got the approval in three days."

So far, the city has phased out more than 30 million metric tons of coal production capacity. More than 70 percent of investment went into "green" projects that helped transform outdated industries.

At the same time, more than 80 percent of days through early September met clean air standards.

"We have established a new energy bureau. The installed capacity of thermal power in Datong will only decrease, and we will pool all resources to develop solar, wind and hydrogen energy and their industrial chains," he said.