The energy transition is causing China short-term pain as it strives to ensure the country has enough supplies of fossil fuels to meet demand, while at the same time investing heavily in renewables to achieve its net-zero emissions targets.


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Zhang Jianhua, the director of China’s National Energy Administration, said that meeting net-zero targets involves a deep-rooted social and economic revolution that will directly impact China’s sustained development in the long term.

The transition will see enormous evolution in the country’s energy system, which will incur short-term pain, he told local media, but the long-term gain of going green will eventually safeguard the nation's energy security.

“We are fighting an uphill battle in the energy transition now,” said Zhang.

This energy transformation will see renewable energy meeting 25% of China's total energy demand by 2030, a figure that is forecast to hit 80% by 2060, up from 16% last year, he said.

The ambition is for non-fossil fuels to account for 90% of the total fuel demand for power generation by 2060, up from 34% now.

Zhang added that by 2030, China's power generation capacity from wind and solar will hit 1200 gigawatts, up from the current 1000GW.

Of the total electricity produced by renewables last year, hydropower accounted for 45% and wind for 27%, while 204 GW were from solar and the rest was from biofuels.

The electricity generated from these sources reached 2214.8 billion kilowatt-hours last year, a year-on-year rise of 8.4%.

He Jiankun, deputy director of China's National Expert Committee on Climate Change, said additional energy demand from now until 2030 will be met by renewables.

China National Petroleum Corporation, the country’s top hydrocarbons producer, said in a recent report that, under the carbon neutrality scenario, China’s oil demand will peak in 2025 at about 730 million tonnes (about 5.37 billion barrels), before falling by 310 million tonnes by 2050, while gas demand will peak in 2040 at about 550 billion cubic metres.

He said China’s coal demand, which constitutes more than 50% of China’s energy consumption mix, is expected to peak by 2025. The coal industry will achieve a carbon dioxide emissions peak by 2025.

Wang Zhongying, director of the Energy Research Institute of the National Development & Reform Commission, an economic planning body, told a recent energy forum in Beijing that to build up a modern energy system, China will need to invert the current energy pyramid supported by a strong fossil fuels base, which could collapse at any time.

“Our goal is to invert the pyramid, with a strong renewable energy base and shrinking fossil fuel structure,” said Wang.

Based on a government plan laid out by the State Council in October last year, China is aiming to boost the sale of cars powered by new energy to account for 25% of its total car sales in 2025. By 2035, it is hoped the country will run all of its public transportation on electricity.

China is currently responsible for 10 billion tonnes per annum of CO2 emissions, representing about 30% of the world's total.