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China: Energy Consumption & Emissions to Plateau

April 29, 2011

A detailed analysis and forecast of energy consumption in China concludes that energy and greenhouse gas emissions would plateau around 2030.

The report, “China’s Energy and Carbon Outlook to 2050“, was published yesterday by the China Energy Group at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and was supported by the US Department of Energy.

 The two scenarios provided – a base case, and an additional measures case – are built from bottom-up analysis.  While the forecasts still demonstrate enough to scare the living daylights out of the casual observer in so far as the forecast levels of increased consumption of coal and oil are staggering, they actually demonstrate an end in sight. 

Source: LBNL CEG

A particular comfort is the envisaged reduction of dependency on coal-fired generation to less than 50% of China’s electricity generation needs, with the balance made up by increased dependence on nuclear and renewable energy (despite consideration of the implications of the nuclear emergency in Japan). 

Source: CEG LBNL

Transport energy will be dominated by oil, implying a significant expansion in demand.  Vehicle kilometres travelled will expand six-fold in 2050, and vehicles almost ten-fold in 2050 from 2005.  Reasonable penetration of hybrids and electric vehicles only kicks in around 2030.

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) – the silver bullet technology backed by many to address greenhouse emissions expansion – is deemed in the report to contribute in a relatively minor way to abatement.

Lawrence Berkeley have set out the fundamental mechanics of how China’s energy economics are projected to develop, including real-world considerations related to technology developments and resource and manufacturing trends.  There are plenty of holes to fill in now to work out how China will meet those expectations, and the commodity price and geopolitical implications.

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