China's Energy Consumption Almost Trebles Since 1978

The recent China's energy fact sheet released by RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) reveals that despite being the world's third largest energy producer (behind the USA and Russia), accounting for about 10.6% of the world's annual total energy production; China is also the second largest energy consumer (behind the USA), accounting for about 10.8% of the world's total annual energy consumption. Alongside this, demand has been increasing rapidly and is expected to grow at about 5% per year until the year 2020. One result of this large growth in demand is due to the energy consumption in China greatly outstripping domestic production capabilities.

According to the energy fact sheet, China's total primary energy consumption in 2005 was 1,560 million tones oil equivalent (mtoe), a significant increase of 9.9% on the previous year. Energy consumption in China has also risen at a rapid rate, increasing by 291% since 1978 (see figure 6). China is the world's largest consumer of coal, accounting for more than 28% of the world's total annual coal consumption, and it represents some 69% of Chinese total primary energy consumption. It is responsible for fueling 70- 80% of power generation, 75% of energy used in industry, and 80% of household energy requirements.

How is energy used in China?

As shown in Figure 9, industrial energy consumption represents the largest element of total consumption at 71%, which is higher than in other developed countries. Overall, energy consumption in all sectors keeps rising.

CO2 emissions in China

China is the world's second largest producer of carbon dioxide. However, with the world's largest population, carbon dioxide emissions in China are 3.88 tonnes per person, which remains below the global average level. However, China's industrial sector alone emitted 485 million metric tons of carbon in 1990, or about 75% of the country's total carbon emissions in that year. To put that in perspective, China's industrial carbon emissions are greater than the total emissions from any country in the world except the USA and Russia.

How is energy use being controlled in China?

A key issue is that energy consumption is rising rapidly in the industrial sector, at about 20.6% per annum, with consumption rising particularly rapidly in the heavy industry sectors, such as steel, construction materials, oil refining, and chemicals.

The Chinese central government has now realized that achieving its energy saving target is highly problematic and is now under heavy pressure to cut energy consumption. In response to this, the Government is now developing a draft amendment to the law on conserving energy, which details measures to avoid energy waste in different sectors to improve energy efficiency and cut pollution emissions.

Mr. Henry Li, Chairman of RICS China, said: "The issue of snow storms brought on by climate change in China in January and February 2008 is serious. Climate change is a more urgent problem. Taking care of our environment should be the top priority. By depicting the picture of the current energy usage in China, we hope this fact sheet will help the government to set a strategic plan and regulation to improve the environmental issue."

Mr. Li added: "Facing the threat of global warming, the central government of PRC has already taken some proactive initiatives to improve the environment. However, more is needed in order to reduce the consumption of energy level as a whole and minimize the carbon dioxide emission, particularly in the industrial sector. We believe this fact sheet will be a stepping stone for China to take a lead role in becoming a "green" country and further enhance it to achieve its societal and economic development goals.

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