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Published on August 30th, 2013 | by Guest Contributor


China’s Future Energy Mix — Graph Of The Day

Originally published on RenewEconomy.
by Sophie Vorrath

China – already the world’s second largest electricity market, largest carbon dioxide emitter, and consumer of half the world’s coal – is on course to more than double its power market in size by 2030. But with increased awareness of environmental pollution, a potential price on carbon emissions and increasingly competitive renewable energy alternatives, how will it meet the challenge?

As part of its latest report, The Future of China’s Power Sector: From centralised and coal powered to distributed and renewable?, Bloomberg New Energy Finance attempts to answer this question by modelling the outlook according to four different scenarios – Traditional Territory, New Normal (BNEF’s base case), Barrier Busting, and Barrier Busting plus carbon price. The result, below, is today’s graph of the day.


As the report notes, and the chart illustrates, it is hard to underestimate the significance of China’s power sector ‘revolution’ and the challenges and opportunities it will create for stakeholders. “These trends will have major implications for anything from coal and LNG prices to gas turbine, wind turbine and solar module demand,” BNEF says. “From a business perspective, the key question is how to develop strategies that allow companies to capitalise on the changing landscape of China’s power sector.”

Michael Liebreich, chief executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said the impacts would reach far beyond China, with major implications for the rest of the world, “ranging from coal and gas prices to the cost and market size for renewable energy technologies – not to mention the health of the planet’s environment.”

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  • Christian Abel

    So, your are putting nuclear, coal, hydro, and wind CAPACITY and the SAME CHART?

    • Bob_Wallace

      Time for a new keyboard. Your’s is starting to experience caplock failure.

      • Christian Abel

        Ah ah ah. Very funny.

        Your chart is just silly and useless, period.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Can you explain why you think the charts are silly and useless?

          • Christian Abel

            Your are adding capacities together, which is meaningless and confusing: in 2012, nuclear is barely visible, and wind looks impressive, but they produce nearly the same amount of energy at the end.

            This is really elementary.

          • Bob_Wallace

            What the graph is showing is the mix and proportion of inputs in terms of installed nameplate capacity. It’s not a production graph.

            Obviously were this a production graph the bar sections would be different sized but the message would be the same.

            By plotting nameplate capacity one can easier see where the most activity is going to be.

  • JamesWimberley

    Eyeballing the chart (the link to the report doesn´t work), even the most optimistic scenario only leads to a stagnation in China´s coal burn, not the absolute reductions we must have to save the world´s climate – and the Chinese people must have for their health. Are there any technical constraints preventing an even higher share of renewables, as in Germany or Denmark or Australia?

    All the scenarios seem to assume successful deployment of all the nuclear power stations under construction, and perhaps more besides. Possible, but not certain. If the Chinese have got serious about safety, this will drive up costs.

    The invisible contribution of geothermal is surprising, as is the absence of tidal.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Let me beat others to the obvious. Sure, China may not do in the future what it says it will. Is that different from any other country or person?

      China had been saying that they would not be able to peak CO2 emissions until 2030. Recently they announced that they thought they could peak by 2025.

      This will be helped by capping the amount of coal which can be burned at 2011 levels. The cap will go into effect in/post 2015. That will mean a roll-back of coal consumption to 6% below 2012 use.

      Following Fukushima China put their nuclear plans on hold for a year. After that period of review they dialed back planed builds by about one third. They announced that they would build no more reactors inland, only at more remote sites along the coast. Some of the decision seems to be based on safety and protection of freshwater sources and some on lack of cooling water inland.

      China’s nuclear plans were made when the price of wind generation was higher and the cost of solar was much higher. It’s likely that China now sees renewables a cheaper, faster and safer route to a cleaner grid than nuclear.

      China will almost certainly continue to build new coal plants. But these are super-critical plants and will replace less efficient older plants. The amount of building will be determined by the annual coal allowance.

      How can China turn things around faster? First, I doubt they can if it means starving the grid. The government wants to keep people from getting too unhappy and I suspect that, in general, most Chinese are more concerned about keeping their current quality of life from slipping than they are concerned about climate change.

      I think China, like the rest of the world, is waiting for a better storage solution. If we get a storage system that can be manufactured on a very large scale and can store electricity for or below the price of pump-up hydro then I think we’ll see a massive move to renewables everywhere. And China may install faster than anyone.

      People aren’t paying much attention to geothermal but it’s getting some play in Indonesia and parts of Africa. With some breakthroughs in enhanced geothermal in the last year or so, activity on ‘hot rock’ should pick up.

      I suspect tidal is getting close to being recognized. There are tidal turbines in use now and they seem to be proving themselves. If acceptable cost projections start to emerge then tidal should start to get some love.

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