China is the world's second largest energy consumer and targets set by government expect this at least to double by 2020.
Resources, however, are already stretched. Consumption has outstripped production for more than a decade (see table) and greatest international attention has been reserved for China's burgeoning oil deficit. China only produces two-thirds of its crude oil needs and BP's Statistical Review of World Energy for 2005 suggests that reserves (No.10 in the world) are enough for just thirteen more years of production at current rates. This has triggered China’s engagement in global oil diplomacy which has seen deals struck with Russia, Iran, Central Asia and Canada.
Presently, demand for energy is growing fastest in the residential and transport and communications sectors. Both have needed to make do with relatively small rations during the reform-era while government placed greater emphasis on industrial growth. In China industry consumes two-thirds of overall output, while averages in OECD (Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development) countries suggest that energy demand is usually split evenly between the residential, industrial and transport sectors.
To fuel demand in non-industrial sectors China is expected to rely heavily on its abundant coal deposits, albeit at high environmental and human cost. New technologies such as 'Integrated gasification combined-cycle' (IGCC) may offer cleaner solutions. An alternative is 'liquefaction' (the production of oil from coal) but its viability is unproven and the process is reportedly unclean.
China also plans further investments in nuclear energy, recently announcing that it will build 40 new nuclear plants that will contribute 4% of total output by 2020.
China also has clear comparative advantage in dam construction with capacity to triple output to 300 GIGO watts.
Renewable energy, meanwhile, is a relative newcomer. But a recent policy shift has resulted in the approval, in February 2005, of the Law on Renewable Energy Resources (including small-scale hydropower, wind and solar energies) which sets a target for the sector to provide around 10% of China’s energy needs by 2020.
Efficiency has become the key message emanating from government and other multilateral agencies such as the World Bank, ADB and the UNDP who have begun to use strong language that underlines the importance of energy efficiency and to develop program initiatives. During the launch of a End-Use Energy Efficiency Programme – a UNDP partnership with the National Development and Reform Commission - Khalid Malik, UNDP Chief Representative in Beijing, noted that “China’s energy consumption per unit of output value in 2000 was 2.4 times more than the world average.”
NGO participation in energy issues is, contrastingly, relatively new and, as yet, there is little public participation in debate. The China Sustainable Energy Program is perhaps the highest profile of these supporting a program across six areas; Low-Carbon Development Paths; Transportation; Buildings; Industry; Electric Utilities; and Renewable Energy. Some support has also been given to promote public awareness, e.g. through a grant made to Global Village of Beijing for a 'media club' and energy efficient labeling on consumer products.
Other Chinese NGO's are conducting activities ranging from promoting alternative fuels for public transportation to helping farming communities use renewable energy. A group of more than 30 domestic NGOs has also led calls for hotels and other large public buildings to maintain their indoor (summer) temperature at 26 degrees to lower energy costs.
Other international groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council and Environmental Defense have collaborated with Chinese partners at Tsinghua University to begin to promote energy efficiency codes for buildings and encourage emissions trading permits.
Despite the low per capita usage of Chinese citizens continued industrialization and an emerging automobile industry are likely to place an increasing strain on energy resources as China’s population gradually urbanizes and consumer appetites grow.
Feature articles on this site: Matt Perrement's June 2005 report , on energy security which gives special attention to efficiency.
Chinese Groups Active in the energy sector:
China Energy Conservation Association
Gansu Province Solar Home System Project 
South-North Institute for Sustainable Development 
Global Village Beijing 
Energy Foundation - China Sustainable Energy Program 
BP-Tsinghua Clean Energy Centre
BECon - The Beijing Energy Efficiency Center 
Shanghai Energy Conservation Science and Technology Center
Alliance to Save Energy China Program 
China Energy Group 
Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association
International Groups Working in China:
The Blue Moon Fund 
World Bank’s Asia Alternative Energy Program 
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory China Energy Group 
Natural Resources Defense Council in China 
National Renewable Energy Laboratory 
UNDP China’s Energy and Environment Program 
Energy and Power in China: Domestic Regulation and Foreign Policy 
Renewable Energy Policy in China 
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Technological Development 
Key Players in China’s Energy Policy 
Integrated Resource Planning and Demand Side Management Manual For China 
Bibliography on Energy and Environment in China 
China Clean Energy Newsletter 
Center For Resource Solutions 
Chinese Law of Energy Conservation 
China New Energy 
Woodrow Wilson Forum on Energy in China 
Woodrow Wilson China Environment Forum Renewable Energy Fact Sheet 2001 
International Experience with Policies to Promote Wind Power Industry Development