China and use of coal

Reader benamery 21 comments on US energy consumption from a previous post at Angry Bear on a better picture of what drives energy consumption in China. The NYT article used air conditioning and shopping malls as one metaphor for the good life that the Chinese are striving for, but he would advise caution for those wanting to Americanize our image of China at least in the short term (decades).

Residential air conditioning is only 2.8% of U.S. energy consumption (including electrical system losses at 31.5% system efficiency), and the average occupied square feet is a LOT bigger than a Chinese apartment. A/C isn’t the U.S. energy monster, that’s the private automobile. A/C uses less energy than residential space heating (5%) or water heating (3.0%) or appliance use (9.4%). It takes on importance from an energy perspective because it drives electricity PEAK demand (not total energy consumption) in large parts of the country.

A look at another lifting from comments by sparaxis at Oildrum from China Energy Group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

It’s useful to look at how coal is used in China to assess what future demand may look like. Unlike the US, less than half of China’s coal is used for power generation, so while important, electricity demand is not the sole driver of coal demand.
China uses almost half as much coal for coking to drive its huge iron & steel industry, so that portion of demand will depend on the outlook for steel, half of which is now used in buildings and infrastructure.
Also unlike the US, China devotes a lot of coal use to district heating (“other transformation” in the graph) in the northern cold climate zones, and that portion is expected to grow only modestly as building reforms increase the efficiency of heat use in buildings.
For direct end-use of coal, that is almost all in industry, particularly the cement industry (residential use has fallen to about 80 million tonnes).
Given many saturation effects driving both construction and end-use of electricity by 2020, we don’t see coal continuing its dramatic rise of the last few years. 2010 probably marks the peak of cement production.
Under a depletion curve defined by China’s declared 189 billion tonnes of reserves from the 2003-2005 National Resource Survey, China is currently on what I call a “sharp peak” production profile that could reach 3.6 to 3.8 billion tonnes, but not for long.
The units in the following graph are in China’s standard measurement of “tonnes of coal equivalent” where 1 tce = 1.37 tonnes raw coal.

China Energy Group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Other publications include:

The China Energy Primer

China’s Coal: Demand, Constraints and Externalities

Energy Use in China: Sectoral Trends and Future Outlook