Clean energy development will boost industrial upgrade

Source:Global Times Published: 2019/3/4 21:18:40

Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

Controlling oil consumption is of great importance for human beings and the whole world today, as mankind has entered a new era. Energy derived from fossil fuels is one of the major factors affecting the environment and climate change, which threaten the human race.

We understand that the environmental harm has been caused by the outdated production and development models of the past, which also challenges our sustainable survival and development. Therefore, the control of fossil energy is of great significance for China and the whole human race. It is essential to take positive and firm measures to control oil consumption today.

The Chinese government has already taken action in this regard, and there have been very good outcomes in controlling coal consumption, with corresponding control measures also taken for oil consumption.

The Chinese government vowed in the Paris Agreement that by 2030, its carbon dioxide emissions will peak and thereafter decline. I believe that the effective actions China has taken mean it will peak its carbon emissions earlier than promised.

According to our calculations, China's oil consumption peak is 720 million tons. Without control over oil consumption, future human development will be unsustainable in terms of environment and climate change.

If China, India, plus countries in the Middle East, Africa and South America all want to achieve industrialization, then the world's oil supply will not be just insufficient, but will bring even greater disasters. Therefore, a new path to industrialization must  be formed for China's sustainable development.

According to the current trends in energy consumption, no matter how well the US shale gas and shale oil sectors develop, if we still follow the old industrial development model, there will not be enough energy supply for the human race, which will increase by 2 to 3 billion people by 2050. It is inevitable that we must pursue a new path of industrialization and meanwhile develop renewable energy.

In recent years, technological advances mean the costs of photovoltaic (PV) and wind energy have been greatly reduced. According to forecasts by the International Renewable Energy Agency, by 2020, the lower-end costs of most wind and solar energy will be close to those of fossil fuels.

At the end of 2018, a PV project operated by the Three Gorges Group in Northwest China's Qinghai Province recorded an on-grid electricity price of 0.31 yuan per kilowatt hour (kWh), while the local on-grid price of coal-fired electricity is 0.32 yuan per kWh. Thus, renewable energy can be very cost-efficient.

In five to 10 years, I believe that renewable energy development will be beyond our expectations, and it will become the dominant force for the growth of energy consumption. And the consumption of fossil fuel energy will be greatly reduced, with major results achieved in oil alternatives in the short term.

Another major implication behind oil consumption control is that if major developing and developed countries adopt green and low-carbon development strategies, the global energy and geopolitical landscape will be rewritten.

From now on, China needs to seriously consider its energy security and energy self-sufficiency issues. China itself should be able to meet 60 to 70 percent of its oil demand, which could be further increased to 70 to 80 percent. Planning and measures are required to reach such a goal.

First, China needs to change its energy structure. With a focus on clean energy, the country should strive to develop natural gas. Also, the potential of China's shale gas development is far beyond imagination, so its main focus should be put on technological progress.

Second, from the government to the private sector, improving energy efficiency should be regarded as the top priority for saving resources and energy.

The technical standards of many of our industries are low, leading to great energy inefficiency. As new technologies advance, from the industrial internet to big data and smart manufacturing, energy efficiency can be greatly improved, alongside sharp reductions in energy consumption.

In addition, the development of renewable energy and clean energy, especially in the field of electric vehicles, should be greatly promoted. In fact, when it comes to the automotive, construction and chemical industries, China should make comprehensive plans in terms of industry, technology, energy and policy and implement them in a unified manner.

China should have its eye on energy self-sufficiency or basic self-sufficiency. Perhaps many may be skeptical about the probability of this. But I want to say that the probability is high. Despite many difficulties, there are still opportunities to achieve this. What's important is not whether it can be done, but whether we have such a goal.

The article was compiled based on an article by Fu Chengyu, former chairman of Sinopec Group, published in the China Science Daily.


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