China’s energy consumption will level off?

One of the biggest bugaboos in the west about the rise of China has been the concern over an exponential increase in Chinese energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. A new report by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) is now challenging that assumption.

As reported in ScienceDaily, report co-author and director of LBNL’s China Energy Group Mark Levine says, “There’s been a perception that China’s rising prosperity means runaway growth in energy consumption. Our study shows this won’t be the case.”

The labor-intensive study developed a “bottom-up” model of energy use providing a more detailed look at energy demand patterns than standard methodologies. It looked at the drivers of energy consumption and the implications of efficiency policies. It also allowed for improvements in the efficiency of equipment as well as the reduction in demand as more households become saturated with appliances.

What the researchers (Nan Zhou, David Fridley, Michael McNeil, Nina Zheng, Jing Ke, and Mark Levine) found is that China’s energy consumption will begin to flatten in 2025-2030 and will fall by mid-century. Once everyone has a refrigerator, they won’t need another one each year. Once a highway or commercial building has been built, it will have a certain life period before needing to be replaced. The reason China’s energy demand is so high now is that it has to build up much of its infrastructure, as well as meet the demand for appliances from an increasingly wealthy populace, but that won’t last forever. China will eventually fall into the pattern of more developed countries where energy demand is flat even though standards of living continue to rise.

While this is good news, even if China’s energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions level off, they will still be far above their former levels.

You can read the report here.

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