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.

14 responses to “Revisiting China’s Energy Consumption

  1. 1. I’m trying to remember the last time I heard someone beside myself use the term “short ton.” When I taught the metric system, I used to tell the story of the “short ton- long tonne scandal” to get their attention.
    In 1987 a student complained to the Dean that my quiz was unfair. I gave them one of the values in tons and didn’t tell them how many pounds in a ton. She was in the nuclear operator program at Hanford.
    My point is that some of your younger readers may not know what a short ton is.
    2. China’s interest in nuclear may not be completely economic. I see a real danger of an arms race between the 2nd and 3rd tier nuclear powers.
    3. Your predictions look more realistic all the time.

  2. From the EIA China Country Analysis

    “Industries such as steel and construction accounted for 30 percent of coal use in 2011”

    As a reference, less then 8% of US coal consumption is for steel and construction. The rate of urbanization in China has generally been substantially faster then projected. I can find 2 or 3 year old reports saying that 60% of China’s population will live in Urban areas by 2030.

    When the 2010 Census came out the Chinese were already at 49% Urbanization up from 37% in 2000. Add in that per capita residential floor space increased from 9.3 sq meters in 1998 to 31.7 sq meters in 2010 that is a lot of construction. 31.7 sq meters per person is pretty close to the averages for the UK(35 sq m) and Japan(33 sq m).

  3. “Coal consumption is about 3 times higher than it was in 2000, reversing the decline seen from 1996 to 2000.”

    Here is some good news. Despite this huge increase in carbon dioxide emissions, last year a dozen climate scientists were scratching their heads answering the question:

    “Why, despite steadily accumulating greenhouse gases, did the rise of the planet’s temperature stall for the past decade?”

  4. Pingback: Get Me Off This Crazy Ride! « Collapse of Industrial Civilization

  5. Tom, Just to let you know that I am reading and thinking about your blogs, and I do appreciate them.
    I haven’t worked on most of these things for decades and don’t have the strong opinion I once did.
    I miss your climate blog.
    I am hoping that before the election that you will give us a run down of the candidates energy/climate policies (or lack of them) both official and in practice.

  6. Ooh–an election post. That’s probably a good idea. Thanks, Marty. I miss my climate blog, too. I was half daydreaming about running a parallel blog called The Lukewarmer’s Way. What do you think?

    • I would like to see an election post because energy/climate issues have only been discussed in vague ways. Obama has a track record which I think most pundits misread. Romney gets away with vague statements on deregulation and tax cuts. I have had recent discussions on how the different candidates would effect nuclear and fracking. I think that most of the opinions I’ve heard reflected more emotion than what the candidates are actually proposing.
      Your climate blog represented a necessary niche. There is no shortage of polarizing climate blogs that are more politics than science. Also there is an artificial dichotomy in most of them. The blog that I get the most out of is Pielke’s, it goes over most pundits heads, and I think that it is good that he does not allow comments. But I think that those ideas need expressed and discussed in a popular format, mostly because I think that human activity is having a disastrous impact on climate but co2 is just a tiny part of it. The current debate has the potential of throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

  7. If you do, I promise that I will respond more. There is a lot of new data.
    I think that a real consensus would be that human activity is changing the climate but the role of co2 has been way over hyped.

  8. I want to see a blog that neatly unifies energy projections, climate science/policy and peak oil. The only thing off limits would be the behavior of individuals in the news. Not too much to ask for, don’t you think?

  9. Hmm. BillC, I actually think that labor would be close to Herculean. I don’t think I could do it. I don’t actually think one individual could…

    • you think? gosh, maybe I am naive.

      • Energy by itself is a complex subject.

        Stuff like this is hard to find..since it generally doesn’t fit anyones political desires.
        Referring to China
        In breakdown, electricity produced from hydropower, wind power and nuclear power expanded 20.6 percent, 32.4 percent and 10.5 percent, respectively, to 489 billion kwh, 63.5 billion kWh and 63.3 billion kWh during the January-August period.

        I get 489 Hydro + 63 Wind = 552 TWh for wind + hydro in the first 8 months of 2012 for China.

        US Hydro + Renwables = 525 TWh for all of 2011.
        EU27 Hydro + Renewables = 637 TWh for all of 2009.

        This story kind of fits as well
        referring to China

        Breaking it down, thermal power output continued to contract. Thermal power output decreased by 6.3% yoy in August, worse than –4.5% yoy in July.

        A couple of months or couple of quarters doesn’t make a trend. But China’s non-fossil electricity industry could possibly be getting close to catching the tail of China’s electricity demand.

        Transportation energy is another story however.

  10. BillC, do you have another site you would use as comparison?

  11. Some news on China’s new nuclear builds.
    Moratorium was lifted on Oct 24th. So far they’ve poured first nuclear concrete on two CPR-1000’s and the HTR-PM.

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