As they face another summer of brownouts, mainlanders have grown accustomed to reminders from their leaders to save power. It takes something out of the ordinary to grab their attention. It came this week, and in plain language from Premier Wen Jiabao - who advised that air conditioners must not be set at less than 26 degrees Celsius in government offices and meeting rooms. This may seem a touch overbearing, but China is facing a power crisis - and sometimes simple messages work best. This one stood out in a 5,600-word speech outlining guidelines for energy conservation. It foreshadowed a statement the following day from the State Council outlining a blueprint for a nationwide drive 'to build a resources-saving society'. The State Council called for greater efforts to conserve energy spanning the entire economy, from heavy industry to farms to homes, and greater use of renewable resources such as hydraulic, wind, solar and biological power. Conservation of resources is to be an important guideline for all planning - from the 11th five-year plan for national economic and social development beginning next year, to regional and city planning. It is in this policy area that the State Council has signalled some important initiatives, including reform of the price structure of resources to encourage conservation, streamlined financial and taxation policies and resource-friendly regulations for industrial restructuring. Security of energy resources has become the focus of economic development, for buyer and seller alike, and for energy-hungry China more than any country. Its three major oil companies are active players around the world wherever they can enter the market. The latest example is the audacious US$18.5 billion bid by mainland oil and gas giant CNOOC for California-based oil company Unocal - and for its predominantly Asian-based energy reserves. Conservation and more efficient use of energy have become inseparable from security of supply. So the calls by Mr Wen and the State Council were timely. This summer's expected power disruptions carry warnings that go beyond today's inconvenience and loss of production. China will continue to need vast sums from foreign investors and business partners. Reliability of energy supply is integral to Beijing's goals of social stability and economic progress. Mr Wen and the State Council have launched what is set to be a sustained effort to establish a national conservation strategy. The challenge will be to maintain the mainland's economic growth, but to do so in a more sustainable fashion. To quote the premier: 'Wasting is shameful, but saving is honourable.' It is a simple message, but one which needs to be conveyed.