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China’s energy revolution

Emerging economies, especially China, will have a particularly significant impact on world energy both in terms of scale and pace. In terms of scale, China’s population is larger than the combined populations of the US, Canada, the EU and Russia. In terms of pace, China is expected to install more generation capacity in the next 15 years than the entire existing US fleet. It is estimated that China will use more coal than the rest of the world combined in the upcoming years and will increase coal investment accordingly. China is and will remain the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. At the same time, China is leading the world in nuclear, clean tech and solar investment. There are a multitude of reasons for this — creating energy independence, abating climate change and pollution — but the results of this investment extend beyond China’s borders. The country’s sheer size — not only geographically but in terms of market share — means that its industry choices have a huge global effect.

Although China is rich in natural resources and reserves, it is seeing a dramatic depletion of its non-renewable resources, particularly in the sector of coal and natural gas. China’s decades of domestic coal production and supply changed in 2009 when the country started to import coal for its increased needs of coal consumption. China also began finding itself in short supply of domestic natural gas in 2007 and has since begun to import through pipelines or liquefied natural gas (LNG).

In 2013, China consumed 3.76 billion tons of standard coal (about 2.63 billion standard oil), with its installed capacity amounting to 1.25 billion kilowatts, surpassing the US in both measures. The massive consumption of coal has led to severe air pollution and respiratory problems in major cities of China, particularly in Beijing where rampant coal emissions are said to be causing an increase in lung cancer…

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