China has an impressive plan to become more sustainable as can be seen from the draft report China’s National Energy Strategy and Reform. In this report the word conservation is mentioned 76 times and yet not once with regard to real implementation or the reduction of building new power plants or coal and petroleum use for home heating or other applications. It is an interesting document where a word is used but never really demonstrates any plans of how it will be implemented.
Let me take a step back and give a bit of background.
Many older rural homes in China still rely on coal, round compressed briquettes, for heating. Each household puts in their order and then as heating season nears they get their delivery for the year. The mining and processing of the coal into these round briquettes takes a lot of energy that are specifically designed for a stove that is loaded from the top with the ash falling out of the bottom. A very simple design but it does not hold or release all the heat as efficiently as possible with most of the heat going up the chimney. With a simple redesign into something akin to a Masonry Heater or Kachelofen (Dutch), even out of metal, it could reduce coal consumption around 40 percent, and if the stove is one made of masonry bricks then savings could be doubled.
Imagine the thousands of homes still burning coal reducing their coal consumption by 40 percent with nothing more than a redesign of the stove. Now if the homes were better insulated, or even insulated to start with, and heat loss is reduced, then that 40 percent savings could go up to 90 percent. A significant reduction in coal consumption and air pollution.
What about in other areas? The report does make mention where China has to rethink energy production and its consumption of energy. The report talks about making cuts in energy consumption with regard to coal and oil but there are no specific strategic plans on just how to do that. Even while the report talks about reduction in the consumption of both of these energy sources, China keeps building more roads and imports more cars, and even more coal-fired power plants. A contradiction in plans and implementation of its strategies.
The report sounds like something the politicians in the U.S. would produce. Saying things like “it will create more jobs while reducing reliance on polluting fossil fuels.” With China it is much harder to see just how far they have gone to actually reducing their energy consumption, as we are reliant on a government control over information. The U.S. is not quite that bad, but they are reliant on corporate control over the information he public gets, and it is usually not until someone does some digging do we get a hindsight of the truth.
China as we know from the Olympic games has little if any air control or pollution control in place. We also know that it has made some grandiose announcements that were never followed through on, like the carbon free city just off the coast of Shanghai on the island of Chongming. The most they have ever built there was a wind farm; no city, and certainly no city relying solely on renewable energy.
China has a long way to go. With real energy conservation it could cut it’s current energy consumption by no less than half, if not 75 percent. China has the potential to show it is better than the rest of the world by actually implementing what it talks about rather than producing nice reports and nothing more. Once China has cut its energy consumption it would need very little input from renewable energy to be fully energy independent from the rest of the world. It just needs to stop following the idea that if you need more energy just build another power plant or dam a river. Rather it should find that energy by cutting energy consumption through better efficiency.
China needs to stop following the U.S. model when it comes to energy use and follow Europe instead; and maybe even create a better model the rest of the world can follow.