Energy Transition Research Institute

China Power Futures and Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Full deployment of energy efficiency will reduce China’s carbon emissions more effectively than the most ambitious effort to bring renewable power sources online. Entri modeled [Editors note: links to 6 MB file] an “efficiency only” scenario that projects much greater potential to reduce energy demand and carbon emissions than is reflected in the demand-side management programs of China’s main utility.

The natural gas plus efficiency scenario reduces emissions more than the renewables plus efficiency scenario because gas is used as a direct substitute for coal and renewable resources are insufficient to do that. That is because China's renewables strategy relies on large hydropower, the practical potential for which will be exhausted in a decade. In fact, some people would argue that hydropower as practiced is already a non-renewable resource. The gas scenario a “low carbon” scenario that maximizes efficiency and prohibits new coal-fired capacity, substituting gas instead. Coal would drop from 60 percent of 2040 capacity to 9 percent.

Our research suggests that there is currently in the "Smart Grid, Strong Grid" strategy a mismatch of goals and actions. Broader efforts may require creating an independent power planning agency with a comprehensive mandate to achieve national goals, as well as giving environmental agencies greater power to regulate the impact of electricity development projects, including renewables.