Nearly half of the households in HCM City have joined this year's campaign to improve energy efficiency and conservation, but the campaign has been hampered by poor law enforcement and collaboration among local authorities, local reports say.

Since the launch of the "emulation drive" for households to save power in April, about 900,000 households in HCM City have lowered their power consumption, according to statistics compiled by the HCM City Power Corporation (HCMPC).

In the three months since, more than 198 million kWh have been saved in the city.

Almost 230,000 households took part in the first edition of the campaign last year, which started in April and ended in June, when the city faced the most serious power shortage during the year. The 2010 campaign saved 30.9 million kWh.

"The annual three-month campaign aims especially to promote the national programme by encouraging and awarding households that effect the biggest cuts in power consumption," said Nguyen Anh Vu of HCMPC.

Households able to effect significant power savings would be given gift vouchers and merit certificates, he said.

About 561,900 households have cut power consumption by more than 10 percent, approximately 129,300 households by 5-10 percent, and over 208,400 households by less than 5 percent, he said.

According to the HCM City Centre for Energy Efficiency, if a household reduces its consumption by 1 kWh a day, the city would save more than 620kWh a year, equivalent to over 770 billion VND (37.37 million USD). There are about 2 million households in the city that has a population of more than 8 million people.

Households account for 35 percent of total power consumption in HCM City.

The country has been facing a power shortage over the last few years, especially during the summer time when consumption is high, and power cuts have been introduced to save energy for production.

The campaign to encourage households to lower their power consumption is part of a national programme on energy efficiency and conservation approved by the Prime Minister and launched by the Ministry of Industry and Trade last year.

The programme aims to save 3-5 percent of the nation's total power consumption in the first five years until 2010 and 5-8 percent in the next five years until 2015.

The use of energy-saving lights has been promoted throughout the nation, prompting local and foreign lighting equipment manufacturers to use the latest technologies for production.

Since the nation-wide effort to conserve energy through efficient lighting began in 2006, government offices, companies and households have saved 4.5 billion kWh of electricity by using power-efficient lighting.

The country could save at least 6.3 billion kWh in electricity through the lighting system, said Vu Minh Mao, head of the Vietnam Lighting Association.

Since about 30 years ago, households in urban and rural areas had been using incandescent lighting of very low efficiency, affecting the environment and leading to a huge waste of energy, he said.

This year's power saving performance has been better than last year, but the campaign has not been implemented to its full potential, Mao said.

More than half of the city population have not joined the power saving campaign because of poor awareness of the importance of energy efficiency and conservation, a senior officer with a HCM City-based electricity company said on the condition of anonymity.

"Poor collaboration among local authorities is the main reason for poor public awareness," he said, adding that more than 12,000 households in Districts 1 and 3 have actually consumed more power than before.

HCMPC deputy chairman Nguyen Van Ly conceded that the city's power conservation potential has not been met.

He said the conservation campaign should also target offices and companies and the latter's involvement should be backed with relevant policies and strict implementation.

For example, he said, the inter-ministry circular – released by the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Planning and Investment – regulated that Government offices submit their energy efficiency and conservation plans, but very few of them have done so.

In the coming time, the power sector would improve the coverage of the campaign by expanding its propagation in collaboration with the city's Youth League, he said.

At least 1,000 youth would be trained to promote the campaign's ideas and awareness among the general population as well as other institutional entities, he added. /.