Coal to remain top energy source for China
A government analyst predicted that coal would continue to make up a large proportion of China's energy mix in the years to come.
As such, in its future energy development plans, the country would need to focus on coal supply and demand.
"Development of coal and electricity is the core of the development of China's energy industry," said Wang Jiacheng, deputy director of the Industrial Economics and Technical Economics Institute under the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).
China's energy consumption and output hit historic highs last year. Consumption reached 1.97 billion metric tons of standard coal equivalent, up 17.4 percent, with coal use accounting for 68.7 percent of overall consumption, said Wang.
Crude oil accounted for 21.8 percent, natural gas 2.8 percent, while water and hydroelectricity represented 6.7 percent. In contrast, total domestic energy output reached only 1.85 billion tons of coal equivalent, up 15.1 percent.
"The energy structure centers on coal and will continue to do so," he said.
Wang didn't give any estimates of future production and consumption. He also didn't elaborate on how China could develop effectively coal as an energy source.
In the long term, traditional fossil fuels, mainly coal, oil and natural gas, were still expected to account for a sizable portion of the energy production and consumption mix, he said.
By the end of 2020, China would add 1.1 billion tons of new coal production capacity and 150 gigawatts of hydropower generating capacity, Xu Dingming, director of the energy bureau under the NDRC, was quoted by the China Securities Journal as saying.
In addition, China would increase its overseas oil production and speed up the development of nuclear power and new sources of energy, the newspaper said, citing Xu.
China would also enhance its efforts in natural gas exploration and the construction of a gas pipeline network, he said.
The energy plan had been approved by the State Council, which had also approved a plan to enhance railway transportation capacity to alleviate supply bottlenecks caused by a lack of transportation facilities, the paper said.
While China has started "clean and green energy" projects and even passed a Renewable Energy Law on February 28, it is just in the earlier stages of harnessing the sun, wind, water and nuclear energy as important sources of power.
With fossil fuels still occupying a huge part of the energy equation, China must also focus on energy conservation, Wang said.
According to him, the Chinese government has put in place a medium-to-long term policy to cut the share of coal as the country's source of energy by 3 percent each year from 2003 to 2020. That would amount to a total savings of 1.4 billion tons of coal equivalent, Wang said.
Last year, China was hit by its worst power crunch in two decades. More than half of its provinces suffered blackouts on a lack of generators and a shortage of coal, amid surging demand for energy.
In the past several years, China has experienced rapid economic growth. However, the country's energy consumption has outpaced its economic growth. In 2003, China's gross domestic product grew 9.4 percent on year, while its energy consumption increased 13.5 percent.