The International Energy Agency has stated that if China and other rapidly emerging industrial nations fail to gain increased control on their national greenhouse gas emissions levels, catastrophic climate change will become inevitable by mid-century. This study focused on China’s power sector, as it accounts for 42% of the nation’s GHG emissions. The paramount objective was to determine the GHG mitigation potential associated with meeting the long term electric energy generation requirements for sustaining China’s recent economic growth trends, with the comparison of two scenarios, over a forecast period of 20 years from a 2007 baseline. The two scenarios considered consist of a Business as Usual (BAU) scenario, in which current trends are continued and, a Sustainable Development (SD) scenario in which China’s stated potential for the increased exploitation of renewable energy resources is realized.
The Long-range Energy Alternatives Planning - LEAP system was employed to model long term electric energy demand in the People’s Republic of China, the results of which were used to calculate the required energy generation forecast and final energy mix for either scenario. China’s required electric energy generation is forecasted to increase threefold to 11,070TWh in the year 2027. The BAU scenario forecast shows coal fired generation will remain dominant at 76.4% of the overall energy mix in 2027; a small decrease from the current fraction of 82.5%. The SD scenario forecast reveals the possibility that the required energy could be provided in an alternative manner with renewable sources, mainly hydro, nuclear, wind and solar PV energy, constituting 78.8% of energy generation in 2027.
Due to the increased use of coal fired energy generation in the BAU scenario, emissions levels of 8,591Mt CO2e are realized in the year 2027. This represents an increase of 155% relative to 2007 levels. The SD scenario exploits renewable energy potential in China’s power sector to a large degree, thus decreasing the use of fossil fuels significantly; this results in 2027 emissions levels of 2,241Mt CO2e, a decrease of 34% relative to 2007 levels. Over the 20 year forecast period, the BAU and SD scenarios deliver net cumulative GHG emissions of 116,062 and 43,523Mt CO2e, respectively. Therefore, the resulting GHG mitigations potential in China’s power sector is 72,539Mt CO2e during the 2007 to 2027 period of study.