|China Looks to Energy Independence|
The high-pitched tone of the China Central Television news announcer was all too familiar to Chinese aged 40 or over. Many important events in their lives were broadcast in the same manner.
But this was May 2007, and the news wasn't a significant change in the country's political leadership. It was the discovery of the Nanpu Oil Field, and it was being hailed as one of the most exciting finds in the history of
The excitement had a reason – the discovery was symbolic evidence of and actual support for the government's strategy of becoming self-reliant in energy.
The Nanpu Oil Field, with oil and gas reserves estimated at 1.18 billion tons, is located in a coastal area of the northern
A subsidiary of China National Petroleum Corporation started exploration in the area in 1988. Little progress was made in the initial years, but a breakthrough came in September 2004 and experts say they are confident that 1,800 to 2,800 meters underground lies more than 900 million tons of petroleum and 140.1 billion square meters of natural gas, more than 111 million tons of oil equivalent.
(The 18,200 MW Three Gorges Hydropower Station is scheduled for full operation in 2009.)
Nanpu has undoubtedly boosted the confidence of decision-makers in the domestic supply. Yet it cannot relieve the worry over long-term energy security, as the overall picture of the country's energy reserves is basically unchanged.
At the current speed of extraction, analysts say, the proven reserves of petroleum could last little more than 15 years, gas 30 year and coal 80 years.
To address the issue, conservation was deemed a priority. The Chinese government has set a target for 2010 of cutting the energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20 percent against the 2005 level.
Apart from tightening management and optimizing the industrial structure, this is to be done largely through technological renovations in production and utilization. Outdated technology is the major cause of the country's low energy efficiency, which is about 10 percentage points below the world's most advanced level. The energy intensity of highly energy-consuming products, such as steel and cement, was often 40 percent higher than the world's leading producers.
The power sector itself is a lavish energy consumer. To avoid loss of energy in the process of production, 1,000 MW of supercritical, extra-supercritical coal-fueled generators and nuclear power units are replacing small units to become the main production force of the industry.
Long distance transmission, a necessary operation due to the uneven distribution of resources, is applying ultra high voltage technology. Projects are underway for two demonstration UHV power lines totaling 2,088 kilometers.
For the same reason, the government has banned the extraction of petroleum if accompanying combustible gas is let loose and not collected.
With the swift growth of
According to Zhao Xiaoping, director of the energy bureau of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the country's highest economic planning department, the government is aiming to curtail primary energy consumption to within 2.7 billion tons of coal equivalent (CE) in 2010.
Given the economic situation and the self-reliance policy, conservation in the sense of preserving reserves for future use is not an option. Digging and extraction have to be accelerated to meet the surging demand.
Coal has dominated the energy portfolio and
Neither is oil and gas production likely to slow.
Since the 1990s, domestic supply has satisfied more than 90 percent of
The answer lies in alternative or renewable energies.
The total capacity of all renewable power was 622,000 MW last year.
According to the State Renewable Energy Medium- and Long-Term Development Program,
The potential of renewable energies is huge, says Ma Kai, minister in charge of the NDRC, and alternatives such as ethanol, coal-based alcohol ether fuel, and coal liquefaction products are promising.
In the meantime, the government is looking at other energy possibilities, including "flammable ice" or frozen gas hydrates. And the country is on the seven-party International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) program, which hopes to achieve breakthrough in exploiting nuclear energy through atomic fusion.
Conservation and clean alternatives have a positive impact on the environment, another aim of
The government has set a target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 10 percent in five years starting from 2006, while controlling emissions of greenhouse gases. In early June, it announced an unprecedented National Climate Change Program.
The power industry was blamed for 54 percent of
Ma Kai said the government would consider the uniqueness of its resources and responsibility in maintaining the stability of the international energy market. It would stick to the basic strategy of self-reliance by accelerating the development of the energy industry and boosting capacity.
However, "self-reliance" also encompasses international cooperation. In the past year,
Besides importing more oil and gas,
From 1978 to 2005,
However, almost the entire nation except the capital,
"The targets can't be revised and we must work resolutely to reach them," Premier Wen Jiabao said in his Report on the Work of the Government, which was delivered in early March at the annual session of the National People's Congress, the top legislature of the country.