No. 6 December 1994


Energy Planning and the Environment in China

by Jiming Hao, Department of Environmental Engineering at Tsinghua University

China ranks third in the world both as a producer and a consumer of energy. The country is facing two major problems with regard to its energy use: energy shortages and large energy losses due to inefficiency. Two prominent features of energy supply and demand in China are its heavy dependence on coal and the relatively high energy intensity, i.e. the large amount of energy used to produce a unit of GDP. The linkage between energy and environment in China is a complex one, as in most countries. The particular challenge is to overcome the energy shortages and to increase efficiency, while at the same time minimising harmful effects on the environment.

The UNEP-sponsored project "Incorporation of Environmental Considerations in Energy Planning in the People's Republic of China" aims to provide a broad overview of the national energy development situation, to develop alternative national energy scenario, and to identify economic and technological factors that might constrain the implementation of energy systems which minimise environmental impacts. Specific aims are to promote energy-related national and regional policies regarding the emission of atmospheric pollutants, especially oxides of sulphur and nitrogen, particulate matter and carbon dioxide.

Planning models, methods, and databases

The Environmental Data Base (EDB) and the Long-range Energy Alternatives Planning (LEAP) model were selected to enhance and supplement existing Chinese energy planning expetise, and to allow interdisciplinary analysis of energy, economy and environment interactions under alternative development scenarios. The major environmental impacts of energy production and use will be examined and quantified, where possible. Scientists from SEI-Boston are taking part as consultants on establishing computer information system on the impacts of energy use on the environment.

Training and exchange visit

An in-service workshop on scenario development was held in July 1994 in Beijing. Technical support from the Stockholm Environment Institute – Boston Center (SEI-B) was provided to the workshop through training in LEAP/ EDB. Data collected by UCCEE within the preliminary baseline scenario at national level served as a base case example for training purposes. Fourteen persons directly involved in the project, and representing eight different institutes, attended the training programme which equipped the participants to work on scenario development. The first week of the workshop focused mainly on general training on the use and structure of the LEAP/EDB model. The second week was devoted to scenario analysis.

In addition to the present author UCCEE has hosted two project team members at Risoe, Denmark for one month to carry out modelling and scenario development work, both for the country as a whole and for Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

Energy-environment scenarios

The development and analysis of scenarios in the project involves:

Review of available data

A comprehensive survey of studies and reports on China's energy plans and environment assessment, funded by multilateral agencies like the World Bank, Asian Development Bank or with domestic funds, has been completed. Regional data on energy supply, use and transformation and emissions for Beijing city and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region has been disaggregated and 1990 was selected as the base year.

Field surveys

The available data on environmental impact assessment and emissions is not adequate for in-dept analysis and therefore additional data was obtained by monitoring 320 industrial boilers, 112 kilns, 114 cooking and tea stoves, and 45 mobile generators powered by gasoline/diesel.

Costing of pollution control technologies

The share of coal is more than 70% of primary energy supply. This analysis therefore focused particularly on technologies for controlling pollution caused by coal combustion. Options under examination are coal washing, briquetting, gasification, desulphurization, de-dusting, combined heat and power production and fuel switching.

The scenario analysis will focus mainly on the energy-intense industries (for example, cement and metallurgy) and the sectors which are expected to have rapid development during the project period. These sectors include electricity, transportation, and households. The alternative energy-environment scenarios were constructed to include technical options such as efficiency improvement, coal washing, briquetting and gasification, and combined heat and power production. Close attention was paid to the policies proposed during the amendment of the National Air Pollution Act.

Meeting the environmental challenges and providing adequate energy supplies to foster economic growth can only be achieved jointly through comprehensive economic and political reforms. The analysis in this project has shown that the main issues to be emphasised are improving energy efficiency and energy pricing policy.

Future work

The updated work schedule for the project is as follows:


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