China may fail to meet its target for more efficient use of energy this year, state press said Saturday quoting the head of the country's main economic planning body.

Ma Kai, director of the National Development and Reform Commission, said the government would find it hard to achieve its goal of reducing energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product by four percent annually, the English-language China Daily reported.

The target is part of China's 11th five-year plan (2006-2110) which was adopted in March. In fact, energy consumption had increased by 0.8 percent during the first half of the year, Ma said Friday during a session of the standing committee of the National Assembly, China's parliament. He stressed that urban investment had risen 31 percent during the first seven months, particularly in the main energy-hungry sectors such as steel production, non-ferrous metals, chemicals and construction materials.

Ma said these industries would have to pay more for the electricity they consume and that a thousand enterprises would have to invest in equipment to improve their energy efficiency. He also called for local authorities to have greater respect for environmental standards.

"Environmental protection will be a major issue in approving new projects this year," Ma was quoted as saying by the paper. For his part, standing committee vice-chairman Li Tieying warned that energy shortages were the biggest threat to China's economic security and sustainable development, the official Xinhua news agency said. According to Li, China has 80 years of coal reserves, 15 years of crude oil and 30 years of natural gas, compared with the global averages of 230, 45 and 61 years, respectively, it said.