Monthly Archives: September 2012

More on China’s Energy Consumption (Not that I’m obsessed or anything…)

I finally got a look at BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy, which has actually been out since June.

There’s a lot in there. BP notes that the growth in world energy consumption fell to 2.5% in 2011, compared to 5.1% in 2010. They also note that 71% of the growth in energy consumption was in China.

Worldwide use of coal increased by 5.4% in 2011. China’s use of coal grew by 9.7%. China dug out half (49.5%) of all the coal used last year.

They also imported a lot. 185 million tons last year. That’s projected to rise to 1 billion tons by 2030. That’s a lot of coal.

But it’s not all dark news–“China consumed 615.5 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity generated by clean energy sources in the first eight months of the year, Shanghai Daily reported, citing the State Electricity Regulatory Commission. The figure took up 19.3 percent of domestic total on-grid power during the period, up 1.1 percentage points annually, the commission said. Electricity produced from hydropower, wind power and nuclear power rose 20.6 percent, 32.4 percent and 10.5 percent, respectively, to 489 billion kWh, 63.5 billion kWh and 63.3 billion kWh in the eight months.”

Revisiting China’s Energy Consumption

It’s worth another look, especially as the DOE EIA has published a new country analysis on China and energy.

Shall we start with the good news? “China’s government plans to boost nuclear capacity to at least 70 GW by 2020. As of mid-2012, China had 15 operating reactors and 30 reactors with over 33 GW of capacity under construction, about half of the global nuclear power capacity being built.”

Or the bad news? “Coal supplied the vast majority (70 percent) of China’s total energy consumption of 90 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) in 2009. Oil is the second-largest source, accounting for 19 percent of the country’s total energy consumption.”

Is there hope? “The Chinese government set a target to raise non-fossil fuel energy consumption to 11.4 percent of the energy mix by 2015 as part of its new 12th Five Year Plan.”

Or despair? “In 2011, China consumed an estimated 4 billion short tons of coal, representing about half of the world total. Coal consumption is about 3 times higher than it was in 2000, reversing the decline seen from 1996 to 2000.”

In 2009 China consumed 96.9 quads. In 2012 their total is estimated to reach 110.7. That’s a compound annual growth rate of 4.54%. That’s twice as fast as the DOE has predicted going forward.

I’ll remind readers that my estimate for energy consumption in 2035 for China is 247 quads–more than twice what the DOE estimates. Recent growth supports my higher estimates.

Even if China succeeds in building the 150 nuclear plants they aspire to over the next 50 years, they will still be burning more coal in 2035 than the entire world burns now.

The Chinese economy, as I predicted, will start to struggle and even sputter at times between now and then. But if the history of other developing countries is any example, that won’t affect energy consumption nearly as much as one might think. In the United States, that Great Depression? Didn’t affect our energy consumption curve.

That’s a lot of coal.

Fuel and Energy Poverty in the Developing and Developed World

Energy consumption is the central focus of this weblog. I have been following statistics and forecasts of energy consumption because I think it hasn’t received enough attention and because I think that consumption is going to increase far more than estimated.

“Between 1990 and 2008, close to 2 billion people worldwide gained access to electricity. But the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that more than 1.3 billion people still lack access to electricity, while the United Nations estimates that another 1 billion have unreliable access.” So wrote the WorldWatch Institute in January of 2012.

Providing access to electricity to those 2 billion people helped caused global energy consumption to soar, from 283 quads in 1980 to 504.7 quads in 2008. Many of those who have access to some electricity want to use more but cannot afford it at the moment. That’s called energy poverty.

Worldwatch continues: “At least 2.7 billion people, and possibly more than 3 billion, lack access to modern fuels for cooking and heating. They rely instead on traditional biomass sources, such as firewood, charcoal, manure, and crop residues, that can emit harmful indoor air pollutants when burned. These pollutants cause nearly 2 million premature deaths worldwide each year, an estimated 44 percent of them in children. Among adult deaths, 60 percent are women. ”

This has to be a focus for what we’re doing. Despite fears of global warming related to energy consumption, these people need help.

On another note, there are plenty of people in the developed world who also are hit by rising energy costs. They typically don’t curtail energy consumption too much, but do without other important items to keep the heat on and the lights burning.

This is more commonly known as fuel poverty, and it afflicts more than 600,000 in Germany and more than 4 million homes in the UK. Estimates for the U.S. are close to 16 million people in fuel poverty, defined as spending more than 10% of one’s income on fuel. Rising electricity rates and higher costs for liquid fuels are the primary culprits.

Although it’s a matter of life or death for those in the developing countries, it’s hugely important in the developed world as well.

The UK statistics give a hint–“Some 7,800 people die during winter because they can’t afford to heat their homes properly, says fuel poverty expert Professor Christine Liddell of the University of Ulster. That works out at 65 deaths a day.”

Energy and fuel poverty statistics for the world are not in any place that I have been able to find. If any of you can point me to statistics, I’d love to look at this in greater detail.

It needs it.

Long Hot Summer?

One good way of looking at weather in the developed world is by looking at energy consumption. It tells you how much air conditioning people are using in the summer and how much heating they’re willing to pay for in the winter.

Last year Japan was patriotically conserving energy, as they had shut down most of their nuclear generating capacity because of the Fukushima earthquake/tsunami, and hadn’t yet figured out how to replace it.

So the fact that power demand rose 2.1% in August compared to the previous year is not a big deal–Japan is importing lots of oil and it’s a rich country.

However, in developing countries such as China, variations in energy consumption have more to do with economic conditions than responses to the weather.  China’s  energy consumption between March and June grew by ‘only’ 5% per month compared to the same months a year ago. This caused great concern amongst China watchers. They don’t believe China’s statistics about the economy, so they watch energy consumption as a useful proxy for what is happening in the larger economy.

Energy consumption in the United States is, well, interesting. We keep better statistics than most places and can say things about our energy consumption that other countries cannot.

In May 2012, for example, the U.S. consumed 7.675 quads, slightly up from May 2011’s 7.609, but slightly less than May 2010’s 7.678.

I’m looking at this because I’ve been reading discussion about hot summers and their causes (is it climate change, natural variability or some combination of the two).

With that in mind I offer a link to a chart of Heating Degree Days by Month from 1949 through 2010. This is a metric used widely to estimate demand for energy. The link is here:

Since 1949, the records for highest demand for each month has been 1978 or earlier, with the exception for December, when the record was 1989. There is lower demand for heating in recent years than previously measured. This tracks global warming theory–the number of very cold days in winter has been expected to decrease.

However, the records for lowest demand for each month has only 3 of recent vintage–November’s record for lowest demand was in 2001, January’s in 2006 and March in 2000. Two records were set in the 50′s and one in the 60′s. Recent years have not been uniformly warmer than those in the modern record as measured by the DOE. Interesting.

Cooling degree days use a similar metric to measure demand for energy for air conditioning. The Department of Energy also publishes a record of CDD’s from 1949 through 2010.

Here the data shows that recent years have been warmer in the U.S., with record high demand for 5 of the 7 months measured being recorded in the past decade. See: of the records for low demand are relatively ancient, with the most recent record low month being 1992.

It has been getting warmer recently. But it doesn’t seem to be happening according to plan. Global warming theory has been clear that it should be happening primarily in the winter months. Explanations or educated guesses are welcome.