Energy consumption figures just released by the Chinese government underscore how quickly coal use is booming in China, a country that is already the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases.
In 2011, China’s coal consumption increased by 9.7%, the most year-over-year growth seen since 2005. The country also saw a substantial increase in natural gas consumption, which climbed by 12% in 2011. The figures, released this week by the National Bureau of Statistics, show just how much work needs to be done in order to de-carbonize China’s rapidly growing energy system.
There are a few positive trends to report, however. Overall energy consumption per unit of GDP declined another 2% — continuing the 19.1% decline in energy intensity since 2005. In addition, solar installations increased by an astonishing 547% and wind installations grew by 48% last year.
Non-fossil fuels — solar PV, solar thermal, wind, and hydro — now account for 9.4% of China’s primary energy consumption. Officials expect renewables to make up roughly 11.4% of consumption by 2015 and energy intensity to decrease another 16% by 2015. China is also in the process of rolling out provincial greenhouse gas trading programs in an attempt to decrease emissions 45% by 2020 compared to 2005 levels.
These developments are promising, but they still don’t stop China’s rapid growth in emissions. Assuming a business-as-usual approach to energy development, the International Energy Agency projects that by the mid-2020s, China’s emissions will double those in the United States.