Senior gov't official says country will soon overtake United States
BRUSSELS - A high-ranking Chinese official has publicly admitted for the first time that the country is on the verge of overtaking the United States to become the globe's biggest energy consumer.
The world's second-largest economy has been under mounting pressure to transform its economic development pattern, further improve energy efficiency and diversify its energy-supply mix.
"As there are no final statistics (for energy consumption), we are still the second-biggest energy consumer," said Ding Zhimin, "but very soon we will take first place."
Ding, deputy director-general of the Policy and Law Department of the National Energy Administration, made the comments at a panel discussion at the European Parliament organized by the Beijing-based Europe-China Clean Energy Center.
It's the first time that a Chinese official has publicly admitted that the country will soon overtake the US. However, China's per capita energy consumption is far lower than that of the US, Ding said.
The National Bureau of Statistics unveiled preliminary data in February, showing that the nation's total energy consumption in 2010 was 3.25 billion tons of coal-equivalent (TCEs), up 5.9 percent in 2009. However, the rate of increase is slower than the country's economic growth of 10.3 percent year-on-year in 2010.
However, those figures are still unverified and Ding did not reveal when China will finalize the energy statistics for 2010. Meanwhile, the US has yet to announce its energy statistics for last year.
Xinhua News Agency quoted the International Energy Agency as saying that China overtook the US as the world's biggest consumer of energy in 2010.
Ding also said that China is the world's largest energy producer, putting out 2.99 billion TCEs last year. The nation is still adjusting its energy targets for the coming five years, although the government has announced the economic and social development guidelines for the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015), according to Ding.
Ding is leading a team of Chinese officials, experts and business leaders in a study of the European experience in exploring clean and renewable energy and boosting energy efficiency.
She said that China has been challenged by some developed nations and international green organizations to boost its ratio of renewable energy to total primary sources to 15 percent by 2020 from the current 8 percent. The nation has already made a pledge to reduce carbon emissions for each unit of GDP by 40-45 percent by 2020 from 2005.
Elisabetta Gardini, a member of the European Parliament, said that China and the European Union (EU) share a vision of a low-carbon future. She added that huge opportunities exist for both sides to explore collaboration in boosting energy efficiency, supply safety and seeking more energy resources.
However, industry insiders urged the EU to follow China's example and implement green targets as swiftly as possible. "There is too much politics, finger-pointing and bargaining in the EU system and implementation is a problem," said Veronique Brigitte Bagge, a sustainability consultant who formerly worked for the European Parliament. "However, China has acted quickly and efficiently in this regard."
The country has improved energy efficiency in general by 19.4 percent during the 2006-2010 period from 2005, and has almost achieved its target of 20 percent.
(China Daily 04/14/2011 page16)