Having visited an impoverished village in the morning and attended a work conference in the afternoon, Wu Hongwen, the mayor of Datong in northern China’s Shanxi Province, was on his way to a local company to hear about their difficulties.

Since taking office last September, Wu has been maintaining 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 demands for its rich energy resources took off in the 1980s. The city achieved an extended boom and accumulated enormous wealth.

However, the city’s heavy dependence on coal inevitably sent it into economic woe as the country’s industrial transformation began. Datong found itself at the bottom among cities in the province in terms of economic development two years ago.

Many put their hopes on Wu to turn things around.

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

Datong has bright prospects for its ongoing energy reform, and Wu said he would continue to push forward the reform as there was more stimulus than stress and more opportunities than obstacles.

“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Development of clean energy and elimination of outdated capacity look like a sure path to success. However, the results usually take a toll on the local economy. To replace coal-related industries with other profitable projects, Wu made attracting investment a top priority.

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

Six months later, work on 176 new projects with a combined investment volume of over 160 billion yuan (23.3 billion U.S. dollars) started.

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 new energy automobile company. “But we got the approval within just three days.”

So far, the city has phased out more than 30 million tonnes of coal production capacity. Leading economic indicators of Datong have led the province in the first half of the year. Over 70 percent of investment went into “green” projects that helped transform outdated industries.

Correspondingly, over 80 percent of the days as of early September 2018 reached the clean air standard, demonstrating an improving air quality in the city.

“We have specially 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 industry chains,” he said. Enditem

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