China's energy mix healthy, but not enough: IEA

Updated: 2011-12-08 09:58

By Liu Yiyu (

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NEW YORK — The chief economist of the International Energy Agency said China will be the leader in manufacturing clean-tech products by 2030 but it simply won't be enough to cut down on its carbon emissions.

"China will be the champion of manufacturing wind and solar products as well as electric vehicles in 20 years," said the IEA's Fatih Birol. "China is making great efforts in clean energy and experimental carbon caps in many provinces, a move we do not see in many places in the world."

China recently laid out a plan to control greenhouse gas emissions in the coming five years with a goal of cutting 17 percent for each unit of GDP by 2015 from 2010 levels. The 17-percent goal has been localized to provincial governments and to certain industries.

But despite China's efforts to cut greenhouse gases, the country's energy demand will continue to grow at an incredible pace. China and India are expected to contribute 50 percent of growth to emerging markets, whose energy demand is expected to spike, Birol said.

China's cumulative carbon emissions will overtake the European Union in 2035 as the world's second-largest emitter after the United States, according to the IEA's estimates. Cumulative CO2 emissions are the total CO2 emissions of a country, region or group during a specific time span. The US, EU and China are the world's top emitters.

China has been making strides in improving its clean energy industries; renewable energy is one of China's seven strategic industries. The country is aiming for industries in clean energy to push for 15-percent market share of energy industries in the nation by 2020.

China's wind turbine manufacturers — Sinovel and Xinjiang Goldwind — ranked among the world's four largest by market share in 2010, according to the BTM consulting. Sinovel and Xinjiang Goldwind may overtake Denmark's Vestas Wind Systems A/S, the world's biggest supplier, by 2015, according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance report.

In the solar industry, seven of the world's largest 10 companies are from China in terms of manufacturing capacity, including Suntech Power, Yingli, LDK and Trina Solar, according to Energy Trend, an industry research firm.

Another major push for China is in oil. The nation will become the largest oil importer by 2020 and its imports will exceed 12 million barrels per day in 2035.

"Oil prices will be around $150 per barrel in the near term because of deferred investment in the short term," Birol said. "The era of cheap oil is over."

China will also play an important role in Russia's fossil fuel exports. It will account for 20 percent of Russia's revenue from fossil fuel exports in 2035 from the current 2 percent, according to the IEA. Russia's exports of fossil fuels will reach $420 billion by that time.

Russia has also been negotiating a five-year gas supply contract with China negotiations are ongoing.

Birol is optimistic about China's energy prospects with Russia. "The two countries will likely build up a pipeline by 2020," he said.