Photo – Chinese policeman standing before the gate of Heavenly Peace, Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China.1

This post profiles the energy system of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), which includes Hong Kong and Macau. This data is appalling and news bleak –

The Financial Times2
China at a Crossroads: Continued Support for Coal Power Erodes Country’s Clean Energy Leadership, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).3

Preface

This preface is equivalent in all country profile posts, so you may wish to scroll down to China’s Energy Supply.

As with other posts on this site, this uses data from the IEA4 and BP.5 Although the latest year of data from BP is more recent than that from the IEA (2018 vs 2016 respectively), BP’s data doesn’t fully account for biofuels, and incorrectly categorises energy from solid biofuels as renewable.6 For these reasons as explained further in the introduction, and unless otherwise indicated, the charts here are of IEA data.

An energy system is conventionally represented by the figure below –

Figure 1. Representation of an energy system.

Scientific studies and the IEA use the term ‘total primary energy supply’ (TPES) to describe, or account for energy in its primary form prior to any conversions such as coal to electricity, whereas energy in forms purchased and used by the consumer is accounted for separately as ‘total final consumption’ (TFC). A profile can be determined for each, for any country or the world. For simplicity this website uses the terms ‘energy supply’ and ‘energy consumption’ respectively.

An energy supply describes energy sources supplied to an energy system in their primary forms, prior to any conversions. To account for energy supplied by non-combustible sources, such as renewables which have natural forms of primary energy (sun, wind etc), it’s conventional to calculate for each the equivalent quantity of energy that would be required to be input to a thermal power station of average efficiency. In other words, an equivalent amount of primary energy is determined, allowing the primary energy supplied by all sources to be compared in a relative manner. This is explained further in the introduction.

China’s Energy Supply

Shanghai’s citizens being choked by the useless byproducts of China’s energy system, Dec 5 20167

China’s energy supply during years 1990 to 2016 is shown in charts 1 and 2, using IEA data that allows separate analysis of all energy sources. Coal energy boomed around year 2000, eclipsing all of China’s other energy supplies, which in 2014 reached 52% of the world’s coal energy supply8

Chart 1. China’s energy supply (TPES), 1990 – 2016, data IEA.4 9 ‘Non-Hydro Renewables’ is energy supplied by Solar, Wind, Geothermal and Marine.
Chart 2. China’s energy supply (TPES), 1990 – 2016, expanded, data IEA.4 9 ‘Non-Hydro Renewables’ is energy supplied by Solar, Wind, Geothermal and Marine.

China’s energy supply is shown below during years 1990 to 2018, using BP’s data. Although this data is more recent, BP doesn’t fully account for biofuels and incorrectly only classifies them as renewable.6

Chart 3. China’s energy supply (TPES), 1990 – 2018, data BP(2019).5 Darker bars indicate years 2017 and 2018. Note: (i) BP’s definition of Renewables is energy supplied by Solar, Wind, Geothermal, Solid Biofuels & ‘Other’; (ii) BP does not fully account for biofuels; and (iii) Solid biofuels are not renewable.6
Chart 4. China’s energy supply (TPES), 1990 – 2018, expanded, data BP(2019).5 Darker bars indicate years 2017 and 2018. Note: (i) BP’s definition of Renewables is energy supplied by Solar, Wind, Geothermal, Solid Biofuels & ‘Other’; (ii) BP does not fully account for biofuels; and (iii) Solid biofuels are not renewable.6

China’s energy supply is dominated by coal, whereas at the world scale the supply of oil and coal are similar.10 As shown further below, this is due to the consumption of coal by China’s industrial sector annually manufacturing half the world’s steel11 and much of its goods. China simply became the world’s factory, and exploited this opportunity for economic growth by the most economically efficient means possible: by combusting coal.

Annual changes of China’s energy supply for years 2000 to 2018 are shown below in chart 5. Fossil fuels once again outpace renewables –

Chart 5. Annual change of China’s energy supply (TPES), 2000 – 2018, data BP(2019).5 Note: (i) BP’s definition of Renewables is energy supplied by Solar, Wind, Geothermal, Solid Biofuels & ‘Other’; and (ii) BP does not fully account for biofuels; and (iii) Solid biofuels are not renewable.6

Numerical values of China’s energy supply for recent years is shown below, calculated using IEA data (BP’s data is unsuitable for this level of detail) –

Table 1. China’s energy supply (TPES), 2012 – 2016.

Charts 6 and 7 show China’s energy supply by share –

Chart 6. China’s energy supply (TPES) by share in 2016, data IEA.4
Chart 7. China’s energy supply (TPES) 1990 – 2016, by share, data IEA.4

Numerical values are shown below for 1990, 2012 and 2016 –

Table 2. China’s energy supply (TPES) by share.

The share of supply of energy from coal in China has been about double that of the world, and oil about half, plausibly due to more economic emphasis on manufacturing than per capita consumption of goods and services. The share of energy supplied from biofuels and waste declined, perhaps due to lower residential consumption of biofuels for cooking and heating. Note the share of fossil fuels reached 87% in 2012, and in 2016 was 83%. While the world talked of decarbonisation, its factory (China) carbonised as shown below

Chart 8. China’s CO2 emissions from 1960 – 2017.12

A measure of decarbonisation is the carbon intensity of total primary energy supply, which is a measure of the quantity of carbon emitted for every Joule of energy supplied by the entire energy system. Chart 9 shows unsurprisingly that China carbonised since 1990, to a level in 2016 27% greater than the world value (i.e 68.04 / 53.61)13

Chart 9. Carbon intensity of China’s energy supply (TPES), 1990 to 2016.

China’s Energy Consumption

Significant energy consumption: Aerial view of Shanghai, August 2011.14

As shown in figure 1 above, the forms and quantities of energy we consume (known as ‘total final consumption’, or here, ‘energy consumption’) differ from that supplied. For example, some energy supplied by coal is converted and consumed as electricity, and the rest is instead combusted and consumed in industrial applications (e.g. steel manufacture) and domestic applications (e.g. cooking). A profile of energy consumption allows us to profile how economies annually utilise the energy supplied.

China’s energy consumption for year 2016 is shown in chart 10 below. Just over a third of energy was consumed as coal directly, a fifth as oil and a quarter as electricity. If China’s energy system was transformed to 100% wind, water and solar, then the current share of electricity would be equivalent to almost 60%, as shown by the dashed green segment. Of the electricity generated, just over two thirds was coal fired, nearly a fifth hydro, and gas and nuclear about 3% each. Solar PV generated only about 1% and wind 4%.

Chart 10. China’s energy consumption (TFC), year 2016, data IEA.4 The dashed segment in the left hand most pie chart represents the equivalent share of electricity if the quantity produced in 2016 was produced within a 100% wind/water/solar (WWS) energy system, serving to demonstrate the remaining change needed for full electrification. The 24.7% in 2016 equates to 57.7% under WWS, as shown. The share of electricity becomes greater because total energy consumption of a 100% WWS system reduces to 42.9% of business-as-usual.3 4This is due to: (a) using heat pumps for building heat; (b) using electricity for industrial heat; (c) using battery and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles; (d) eliminating mining, transportation and processing of fuels, and (e) efficiency improvements. AlsoNote: (i) Non-energy use of energy sources excluded (e.g. oil used for lubrication); (ii) Transport & Distribution Losses include gas distribution, electricity transmission, and coal transport, and (iii) Examples of Electricity Industry Own-Use include energy consumed in coal mines, own consumption in power plants and energy used for oil and gas extraction.15

Chart 11 shows China’s energy consumption over time. The direct consumption of coal ‘took off’ around year 2000. Oil and electricity grew rapidly while bioenergy fell.

Chart 11. China’s energy consumption (TFC), 1990 – 2016, data IEA.4 Non-energy use of energy sources excluded (e.g. oil used for lubrication).
Hydro electricity generation: The Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River, China.16 This has been the world’s largest power station in terms of installed capacity (22,500 MW) since 2012. The dam flooded archaeological and cultural sites, displaced some 1.3 million people, and had caused significant ecological changes including an increased risk of landslides.17

The IEA divide economies into three broad sectors; industry, transport and other (which is the combination of commercial, residential, agriculture and fishing). The consumption by China’s industrial sector is shown in chart 12. Note that for clarity the following charts don’t show the forms of energy not consumed in each sector (e.g. geothermal energy in the transport sector).

Chart 12, Industry. Energy consumption of China’s industrial sector, data IEA.4

China’s industrial sector consumed coal to manufacture steel:

Steel is an alloy based primarily on iron. As iron occurs only as iron oxides in the earth’s crust, the ores must be converted, or ‘reduced’, using carbon. The primary source of this carbon is coking coal.

How is Steel Produced? World Coal Association.

China is the world’s steel giant, accounting for half of the world’s production and consumption. The next largest market is the EU at just 10%, which demonstrates just how much the Chinese market drives the global steel industry.

China continues to dominate global steel, March 2017.

On average, per tonne of coal consumed, the same amount of carbon dioxide is emitted by a steel mill and by a coal fired power station.18

East lake and steel mills, Wuhan, China, 2009.19

Chart 13 shows consumption by the transport sector which includes road, rail and domestic aviation. Oil dominates.

Chart 13, Transport. Energy consumption of China’s transport sector, data IEA.4 Note: this includes rail and aviation.

Electricity’s share in the transport sector in 2016 was 3.3%.20 Chart 14 shows chart 13 excluding oil –

Chart 14, Transport excluding oil. Energy consumption of China’s transport sector excluding oil, data IEA.4 Note: this includes rail and aviation.

Energy consumption of all other economic sectors is shown in chart 15. Consumption of biofuels and waste declined as all others steadily grew, plausibly due to population growth.

Chart 15, All other sectors. Energy consumption (TFC) of China’s commercial, residential, agriculture and fishing sectors combined, data IEA.4

Chart 16 shows electricity generation over time. Coal dominated. Hydro’s contribution grew to be significant. The remaining forms of generation were negligible.

Chart 16. Electricity generation in China, 1990 – 2016, data IEA.4
The world’s ‘largest’ thermal power station as of Feb 2019: The Tuoketuo coal fired power station in Inner Mongolia (part of China and seperate from Mongolia). This power station is owned by Datang International Power Generation Co. and has a capacity of 6,270 MW.21 This is not an old plant – the first units began operation in 2003 and was most recently expanded in 2017.22 The power plant exploits coal from the Junggar Coalfield approximately 50 km (31 mi) away, and meets its water requirements by pumping its needs from the Yellow River, located 12 km (7 mi) away.23 The tall narrow chimneys are the flue gas stacks that emit CO2 and other combustion byproducts. The wide chimneys are the cooling towers that emit waste heat.24

Note the caption in the picture above states:

As the world’s largest thermal power plant with a total installed capacity of 6,720 MW, Inner Mongolia Tuoketuo Power Generation Company insists on being synchronised with the power industry in innovation and upgrading, as well as high-efficient and clean development. It is committed to “bringing clean energy to Beijing and protecting the environment in Inner Mongolia”. In 2017, the Phase V project of Tuoketuo Power Generation Company was recognised as the Elite Project of China Datang as the two units achieved ultra-low emissions soon as they went into operation with dust emission lower than national standards and reaching the leading level in China.

Datang International Power Generation Co., Ltd. Social Responsibility Report 2017.

More recent electricity data from BP is plotted in the charts below showing electricity generation in China for years 2017 and 2018. Although hydro is shown separately from renewables, it is of course also renewable.

Chart 17. Electricity generation in China, years 2017 & 2018, data BP(2019).5 Note: (i) BP’s definition of Renewables is energy supplied by Solar, Wind, Geothermal and Solid Biofuels; (ii) BP does not fully account for biofuels; and (iii) Solid biofuels are not renewable.6
Chart 18. Electricity generation in China, years 2017 & 2018, data BP(2019).5 Note: (i) BP’s definition of Renewables is energy supplied by Solar, Wind, Geothermal and Solid Biofuels; (ii) BP does not fully account for biofuels; and (iii) Solid biofuels are not renewable.6

Chart 19 shows the changes of electricity generation between years 2017 and 2018. The increase in fossil fuelled electricity generation was TWICE that from hydro and renewables combined.25

Chart 19. Changes in China’s electricity generation between years 2017 & 2018, data BP(2019).5 Note: (i) BP’s definition of Renewables is energy supplied by Solar, Wind, Geothermal and Solid Biofuels; (ii) BP does not fully account for biofuels; and (iii) Solid biofuels are not renewable.6

The configuration of China’s energy system seems to have solely been a consequence of globally competitive economic priorities. That competitiveness was fuelled by an abundance of cheap labour and coal from domestic and overseas mines. Fossil fuels continue to dominate and outpace renewables.

  1. Chinese policeman standing before the gate of Heavenly Peace, Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China. By Diego Delso, CC BY-SA 4.0()
  2. https://www.ft.com/content/baaa32dc-1d42-11e9-b126-46fc3ad87c65()
  3. http://ieefa.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/China-at-a-Crossroads_January-2019.pdf()
  4. https://www.iea.org/statistics/()()()()()()()()()()()()
  5. https://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/energy-economics/statistical-review-of-world-energy.html()()()()()()()
  6. https://www.worldenergydata.org/biofuels/()()()()()()()()
  7. Andrey Filippov 安德烈 from Moscow, Russia, Shanghai, China (37199009294)CC BY 2.0()
  8. For year 2014, China coal TPES/World coal TPES = 85,119.53 / 164,750.58 = 51.6%()
  9. Chart format copied from Global Carbon Project, Global Carbon Budget 2018, slide 30, http://folk.uio.no/roberan/GCB2018.shtml()()
  10. chart 2, https://www.worldenergydata.org/world-energy-supply/()
  11. https://www.2wglobal.com/news-and-insights/articles/features/china-continues-to-dominate-global-steel/()
  12. http://www.globalcarbonatlas.org/en/CO2-emissions()
  13. chart 9, https://www.worldenergydata.org/world-energy-supply/ ()
  14. Vmenkov, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Aerial_-Shanghai-_P1040698.JPG, CC BY-SA 3.0()
  15. https://www.iea.org/statistics/resources/balancedefinitions/()
  16. Source file: Le Grand PortageDerivative work: Rehman, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ThreeGorgesDam-China2009.jpg, CC BY 2.0()
  17. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Gorges_Dam()
  18. Steeling the Future, The truth behind Australian metallurgical coal exports, Greenpeace, https://www.greenpeace.org.au/wp/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/280517-GPAP-Steeling-the-Future-Report-LR.pdf()
  19. East lake and steel mills, Wuhan, China, 2009, Author ‘fading’ CC BY-SA 3.0()
  20. 9,742 ktoe / 299,226 ktoe as shown in the IEA’s energy Balance Data Table for PRC, 2016()
  21. Datang International Power Generation Co., Ltd. Social Responsibility Report 2017.()
  22. https://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Datang_Tuoketuo_power_station()
  23. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuoketuo_Power_Station()
  24. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermal_power_station#Typical_coal_thermal_power_station()
  25. 308/(116+37) = 2.0()
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