China's energy landscape growing: report

By Chen Weihua in Washington | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-02-02 12:19

China's slower economic growth and its economic transition and fuel mix will have a major impact on the global energy market in the next 20 years, according to the 2017 BP Energy Outlook released in Washington on Wednesday.

The report projects that China's energy demand growth will slow to 1.9 percent a year through the next 20 years to 2035, less than a third of China's pace in the last 20 years of 6.3 percent a year. However, China will still consume more than a quarter of the world's energy in 2035.

The report also predicts that China's energy intensity will decline by 3 percent a year going toward 2035, compared with the global average of 2 percent. It forecasts that China's energy mix continues to evolve, with coal's share falling from 64 percent today to 42 percent in 2035, according to the report.

Spencer Dale, BP's chief economist, said on Wednesday that China is likely to see a sharp change in the pattern of coal consumption due to the changing pace and pattern of growth - slower economic growth, less energy-intensive growth and a commitment to reduce dependency on coal.

The suffocating pollution in Chinese cities has sparked a public outcry. As a result, the government's 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) has focused on sustainable and less energy-intensive growth and has set a series of more stringent climate and carbon-reduction targets.

While coal fueled China's rapid industrialization in the 1990s, Dale said "those days are over".

"The growth of Chinese coal consumption is likely to slow sharply, and ultimately stops and declines," he said at the report's launch at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

The report predicts China's energy consumption to grow by 47 percent and production to grow by 38 percent during the 2015-2035 period, both faster than the global average of 31 percent and 29 percent, respectively.

It forecasts that China's share in global energy demands will rise from 23 percent in 2015 to 26 percent in 2035.

The report also forecasts that China's nuclear energy will grow by 10.6 percent a year from 2015 to 2035, to account for 31 percent of global nuclear energy generation by 2035. And by 2035, China will also become the second-largest shale gas producer after the US.

In an article on China-US Focus website this week, Dongping Han, a professor at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina, compared China's recent announcement to scrap 85 coal power plants under construction and investing $361 billion in green energy to US President Donald Trump's talk about investing more in coal as a source of energy.

"China's move in this direction will further strengthen China's leadership position in green energy," Han said.

While global energy demand will grow by around 30 percent over the next two decades, Dale said almost all of that growth is coming from the emerging markets, where 2 billion people are being lifted out of low incomes and into middle incomes. "In that sense, increasing energy use is a good news story. It's related to increasing prosperity, living standards we expect to see in the emerging markets, which drive global growth over the next 20 years," he said.

The annual report also noted that the increase in global energy demand is substantially offset by rapid gains in energy efficiency.

Dale said that forecasting is not about being right or wrong. "For me, the point of forecasting is better understanding the nature of uncertainties," he said, adding that BP is still investing $17 billion a year in the energy sector.

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