New energy is poised to rise significantly in China, presenting great historic opportunities for the world's top energy consumer, said Chang Yijun, president of Fenwei Energy Information Services Co., Ltd. at an industry summit held late last week.
By 2020, share of non-fossil energy in China's total energy consumption mix will reach 22.2%, up from 13.3% in 2016, predicted Chang at the sidelines of the 5th Global Thermal Coal Resource & Market Summit in Beijing on November 17.
That will be a much faster growth than the target mapped out in the country's 13th Five-Year Plan for energy development, according to which the share of non-fossil energy in China's total energy consumption mix will rise from 2015's 12% to 15% by 2020.
Based on database developed by sxcoal.com, a coal industry portal owned by Fenwei, Chang projected the share of coal in China's energy consumption mix to reduce from 2016's 62.4% to 56.4% by 2020, instead of 58% specified in the 13th Five-Year Plan period.
Coal consumption in China may retreat to 3.71 billion tonnes by 2020 from 2016's 3.91 billion tonnes, he anticipated, rather than increasing from 2015's 3.96 billion tonnes to 4.1 billion tonnes by 2020 as the five-year plan has estimated.
According to Chang, China's coal consumption has peaked and will step onto a downward track over 2016-20, thanks to reduction of energy consumption per unit of GDP, rapid growth of solar and wind power under government subsidy, significant breakthrough in non-conventional natural gas extraction and faster-than-expected development of biomass energy.
Yet, the decrease of coal consumption will rely on the subsidy on solar and wind power, leap of low-cost import LNG, underestimated impact of biomass energy on future energy mix.
Chang pointed out that the story of energy shortage and fossil fuel shortage has come to an end. "More new fossil fuel reserves are discovered each year than the volume mined; new reserves of conventional and non-conventional natural gas outstrip consumption each year," he noted.
"It could be seen human consumption of fossil fuel has been declining year by year; its historic mission will end ahead of its economic life," Chang said.
It will be an irresistible trend for China to see rising renewables and new energy to gradually replace fossil fuel, according to Chang.
Earth energy is expected to obtain "subsidy" from solar absorbing during photosynthesis facilitated by carbon dioxide, and the economic scale will well exceed current government "subsidy" for new energy, he said.
Chang believed China will embrace a great historic opportunity in the biomass-based energy revolution.
"The so-called energy revolution should not be subsidy-driven, like in solar and wind industries; it needs its own 'engine' to generate persistent and rapid development," he explained.
China will be a headstream for energy industrial revolution, as it boasts the largest agricultural population and in-situ industrialization demand, said Chang.
"In future, land resource will evolve into the most vital asset and water conservancy and irrigation projects will replace real estate to serve as the biggest basic industry. Internet and distributed energy system will provide basis and conditions for biomass energy development."
"Modern agriculture represented by energy agriculture is set to return to the first big industry," forecast Chang.
Growth of new energy's share in China's energy consumption mix in recent five years reflected change of politics, economy and environment and also tendency of natural evolution.
Coal's share in the national energy consumption mix dropped 6.5 percentage points over 2012-16. The rate of decrease has accelerated over the years, with a 1.7 percentage points drop in 2016.
China's total energy consumption touched 4.36 billion tonnes of standard coal last year, up 1.4% from a year ago. The share of new energy in energy consumption mix hit 13.3% in 2016, 1.2 percentage points higher than the previous year.
Non-conventional natural gas featuring coalbed methane and shale gas is developing rapidly and its industrial extraction has gained economic viability and competitiveness in the energy field since the success of US shale gas revolution.
Over 2012-16, China's solar power output registered an average growth of 170% annually. Solar power has yet gained viability for large-scale production in foreign countries, and it remains hard to evaluate advantages and disadvantages of large-scale solar power development, noted Chang at the summit.
During the same period, wind power output across China posted average yearly growth 26%, thanks to fast development of technology and equipment. Better than solar power, wind power has gained economic viability in some foreign countries. Yet, wind power industry still faces obstacles including natural conditions constraint and wind idling, Chang pointed out.
China's hydropower output grew 13% annually from 2012 to 2016, yet the industry still suffers bottlenecks in growth potential as constrained by poor natural conditions, Chang added.
Chang also elaborated on China's biomass energy, which is on the initial stage. Despite improving technology and equipment and falling production cost, the industry still needs government subsidy in China.
(Writing by Jessie Jia Editing by Harry Huo)
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