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China Falling Short of Energy Efficiency Targets

image credit: China, the world’s largest energy consumer, missed its energy efficiency goals in 2019. Growth in markets, like steel and services, thwarted its reaching that objective. The chances of it rebounding this year are slim because of the Covid 19 pandemic, mea

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China, the world’s largest energy consumer, missed its energy efficiency goals in 2019. Growth in markets, like steel and services, thwarted its reaching that objective. The chances of it rebounding this year are slim because of the Covid 19 pandemic, meaning that more energy efficiency work needs to be done.   

 

The country’s rise to a world energy leader occurred recently. A sleeping economic giant in the 20th Century, China awoke at the turn of the millennium disrupting many markets, including energy use, production, and efficiency. Since the country decided to trade in its historical communist/socialist economic model and adopt capitalist principles, it has been the world’s fastest rising economy in history. Its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increases bested the pace that the US, the previous standard bearer, set in the 20th Century.

 

An Evolving Energy Efficiency Outlook

 

China’s rapid economic growth drove increases in energy use. In 2010, the Asian country passed the US as the world’s largest energy consumer. China’s energy efficiency programs have been slowly evolving. In 2011, for example, energy use climbed 7 percent as GDP soared 9.3 percent. Efficiency improved only 2 percent, missing its target by 1.2 percentage points that year.

 

Recently, China made improving energy efficiency a key component in its energy development plans. The country set a goal to increase its energy efficiency by 15% from 2015 to 2020 but has struggled to meet the target.  

 

Missing its Mark

 

In 2019, the country cut energy consumed per unit of GDP by 2.6%, lower than its target of 3%. The Chineses National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) attributed the failure to “the rapid growth of steel, building materials, non-ferrous metals, chemicals, and the service sector”.

 

Moving forward, the country appears to be lowering expectations for energy efficiency improvement in the near term. The NDRC did not set a numerical target for 2020, casting doubt on its ability to meet the five-year goal.

 

The Future Does Not Look Bright

 

The impact of the Covid 19 pandemic will be felt this year. The outbreak had a negative impact on China’s economy, like it has around the world. During dour economic periods, nations focus more on economic expansion than other objectives, such as improving energy efficiency.

 

China has become a world leader in energy use and efficiency. Recently, the country has had trouble meeting its goals, and it looks like the struggle will continue as long as the Covid pandemic rages.

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