China Plans to Slow Energy Consumption Increase to 28% by 2020

China, a week after unveiling an accord aimed at limiting carbon emissions, plans to cap the increasing rate at which it consumes energy to 28 percent for the seven-year period to 2020.

The nation is targeting energy use equivalent to an annual 4.8 billion metric tons of standard coal by 2020, according to a statement issued by the State Council today. China’s energy use surged 45 percent in the seven years to 2013, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics.

The statement marks the latest attempt by China’s policy makers to limit the nation’s appetite for energy. Reflecting its rapid industrialization and economic growth, China has become a voracious consumer of energy, changing global energy markets and the geopolitics of energy security.

The goals set by the State Council represent a road map for China’s energy development strategy until 2020 and are contained in a paper dated June 7. The document, compiled before President Xi Jinping last week said China will strive to double the amount of energy it gets from zero-emission sources in the next 16 years, aims to cut coal consumption in Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei and Shandong, the Pearl River Delta and the Yangtze Delta region.

As part of the State Council plan, the government also targets getting 15 percent of its energy from non-fossil fuels, more than 10 percent from natural gas and less than 62 percent from coal. The nation will limit coal consumption to about 4.2 billion tons by 2020.

The targets are set against the backdrop of increasing environmental pollution, which is pressuring China’s authorities to curb coal consumption and increase the share of lower-emission technology used in energy production.

Coal accounted for 66 percent of China’s energy consumption last year, according to the statistics bureau. The U.S. gets about 30 percent of its electricity from coal, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance data.

Global coal demand surged by more than 50 percent in the 10 years to 2013, with China the principal source of the increase, the International Energy Agency said in its most recent World Energy Outlook. China surpassed the European Union as the world’s largest net coal importer in 2012, the IEA said.

China aims to have coal-bed methane output of 30 billion cubic meters by 2020 and shale gas production of above 30 billion cubic meters, according to the statement.

The world’s second-biggest economy also plans to install as much as 58 gigawatts of nuclear power by 2020, with an additional 30 gigawatts or more under construction by then. China has about 15 gigawatts of nuclear power at the moment.

— With assistance by Feifei Shen

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