Future Of Energy In China (Energy Outlook)

Future Of Energy In China (Energy Outlook)

This is a short guide outlining what the different forecasts and estimates say the future of China’s energy mix might look like (what energy sources provide energy and electricity in the future).


Summary – Future Energy Outlook In China

  • At present, China’s energy and electricity mix is majority fueled by coal. In 2017, 60.4% of energy came from coal, and for electricity, that number was even higher at 64.7%. Since 2011, China has used more coal than the rest of the world combined. 
  • China is in an interesting position because they are now the biggest producer and consumer of energy worldwide, and the bigger user of coal, as well as the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide. However, they are also one of the world leaders in renewable energy investment – much of which has come over the last decade
  • Despite this investment, some reports indicate a slowing renewable energy growth at least into the short term, particularly for solar, as there is now a saturated local market for solar, and there are tariff and trade challenges such and China’s trade war with the US
  • As of 2018/19, China is a major importer of energy to meet the demand of energy to continue building their economy. Even though China is trying to diversify their energy portfolio, they still do have somewhat of a dependence on other countries right now for their energy. This could play a role on China’s energy mix in the future
  • China has found large shale gas resources domestically, but at present, they are difficult or expensive to mine
  • At present, renewables make up 13.8% of total energy consumption in China, but China has committed to increasing that to 20% by 2030
  • China is one of the world leaders in Hydroelectric energy
  • It’s possible China could rely on nuclear and natural gas in the short to medium term (along with coal and oil) to bridge the gap towards renewables
  • China has good domestic supplies of coal
  • China is also one of the leaders in electric vehicle global investment
  • In the future, a large investment in new power transmission lines and infrastructure could help with more renewable energy getting to the end user instead of being lost and now entering the main power grid

A few more general notes are:

  • There’s many factors that can ultimately impact the future energy mix of any country, such as macroeconomic growth and market forces, world oil prices, technological progress, and energy policies … just to name a few. Social, economic, environmental and logistical pros and cons of different energy sources also have to be weighed up
  • In reality, we can look at past energy data, and current trends of energy production and consumption. We can then use modeled projections to predict what might happen with energy in the future based on different assumptions and methodologies
  • But, energy forecasts are not definitive – they are more of an educated estimate/prediction
  • Energy mixes can differ on a state or city based level, compared to the national trends as a whole – state and local governments can have some say in this
  • % of a type of energy source is different to total numbers. For example, % share of renewables might go up in 30 years, but emissions and air pollutants might not actually reduce if the same amount of fossil fuel in total are still being used (a growing population can have something to do with this for example)
  • When looking at renewables as an energy source, different types of renewables can make up different % shares e.g. solar or hydroelectric might make up more than wind for example
  • Fossil fuels, nuclear and other types of energy sources in the future might start specialising or diverging into sub-types e.g. clean coal technology vs regular coal
  • Electrification of cars (moving away from oil based fuel) and other vehicles could have a significant impact on the overall energy and electricity mix of a country


Forecasts & Predictions Of Energy Sources In China In The Future

  • In 2016, coal made up 62 percent of China’s energy use
  • Since 2011, China has consumed more coal than the rest of the world combined
  • China has committed to make non-fossil fuel energy 20 percent of its energy supply by 2030
  • Over the last decade, China’s investment in renewable energy and natural gas has surged. In 2017, almost half of global renewable energy investment came from China, totaling $125.9 billion. This is more than double the $53.3 billion that China invested in renewables in 2013. China is becoming the largest market in the world for renewable energy. It is estimated that 1 in every 4 gigawatts of global renewable energy will be generated by China through 2040.
  • Over saturated market, trade war with US make China’s solar future uncertain
  • China has pledged to source 10 percent of its energy demands from natural gas by 2020
  • commitment to nuclear energy and outlined plans to construct 40 additional plants by 2020

– chinapower.csis.org

There is actually a very good article on China’s current energy situation, and some considerations for the future at https://chinapower.csis.org/energy-footprint/


Some forecasts put the future primary energy mix at:

  • Non fossil fuels to grow to 25.5% by 2035, and 35% by 2050
  • Coal will steadily decline to 42.5% by 2035, and 33% by 2050
  • Gas will steadily increase to 15% by 2035 by 2035, and 17% by 2050
  • Oil will steadily decrease to 17% by 2035, and 15% by 2050

– eneken.ieej.or.jp


  • It’s expected China’s energy demand will continue into the future
  • But, the New Policies Scenario is expected to slow average energy demand – this is due to structural shifts in the economy, strong energy efficiency policies and demographic changes
  • [It’s expected] China’s growing energy needs are increasingly met by renewables, natural gas and electricity while coal demand falls back.
  • The New Policies Scenario could see installed capacity by energy technology by 2040 be: Coal 1087GW (gigawatts), Solar 738GW, Wind 593GW, Hydro 493GW, Gas 219GW, Nuclear 145GW, Bioenergy 49GW
  • … the share of coal in total generation falls from two-thirds today to less than 40% in 2040 as a result
  • China’s cumulative share of global investment in electric vehicles is at 46% at present – so China’s electric vehicle future looks strong
  • Already today, some 15% of China’s wind and solar PV generation is being curtailed because it cannot be accommodated by the existing power system … a major investment in new power transmission lines [could ease these problems]

– iea.org


Further forecasts and projections on China’s energy future can be found at:

  • https://www.dbs.com/aics/templatedata/article/generic/data/en/GR/082018/180820_insights_2030_energy_mix_marching_towards_a_cleaner_future.xml
  • https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2017/04/china-2020-and-2030-enegy-plans.html
  • https://cleantechnica.com/2018/09/27/china-proposes-75-increase-to-2030-renewable-energy-target/


Future Of Renewable Energy In China

  • China has committed to renewables fulfilling 20% of total energy supply by 2030, which would be roughly just over a 6% increase
  • Although China is a world leader in renewable energy investment, there are barriers to short term and long term growth, such as a saturated domestic market of some renewable energy types like solar, and changing tariffs and trade wars with the US
  • China is one of the world leaders in Hydroelectric energy
  • Although China might be willing to invest in renewable energy, there are a whole set of challenges they will face in the future transitioning away from coal as a primary energy supply
  • It’s possible China could rely on nuclear and natural gas in the short to medium term (along with coal and oil) to bridge the gap towards renewables
  • Solar and wind energy look to be the two biggest growers in China’s long term as far as renewables go



1. https://chinapower.csis.org/energy-footprint/

2. https://eneken.ieej.or.jp/data/8192.pdf

3. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/energy-sources-energy-mix-by-country-where-major-countries-in-the-world-get-their-energy-from/

4. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/the-challenges-with-chinas-transition-from-coal-to-natural-gas-renewable-energy/

5. https://www.iea.org/weo/china/

6. https://www.dbs.com/aics/templatedata/article/generic/data/en/GR/082018/180820_insights_2030_energy_mix_marching_towards_a_cleaner_future.xml

7. https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2017/04/china-2020-and-2030-enegy-plans.html

8. https://cleantechnica.com/2018/09/27/china-proposes-75-increase-to-2030-renewable-energy-target/

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