Can China transform its energy economy? For the last 30 years rapid economic growth – based on heavy industry, manufacturing and construction – has been sustained by hydrocarbons. Coal remains dominant; what has changed is the volumes involved. In 1990, China used some 446m tonnes of coal. This year the figure will be around 2.8bn tonnes. In parallel, oil demand has grown with the dramatic expansion of car numbers. Oil consumption was 2m barrels a day in 1980. Now it is almost 12m b/d, making China the largest oil importer. But growth has come at a cost. China, as last week’s announcement from the Global Carbon Project reminded us, is the largest single source of emissions and suffering badly from the low level pollution that covers many cities in smog. President Xi Jinping has promised dramatic change – an energy revolution “to make the skies blue again”. The rhetoric is great but are the promises deliverable? A comprehensive study of the Chinese energy market published last week as part of the International Energy Agency’s new World Energy Outlook is a great place to start for anyone wanting to understand what is happening and what might happen next. China is building dozens of new nuclear plants – more than a third of the global total. Its nuclear industry is developing its own reactor technology, aiming to create a world-class export industry.
FT 20th Nov 2017 read more »