Consultation Conclusions of China’s Energy Resources
Energy resources are the basic industry of a nation’s economy. The development of China’s economy and society requires a reliable, cheap and clean energy supply. To meet the severe challenges that currently China faces in its energy supply, CAE member Fan Weitang and other CAE members and experts conducted a comprehensive, systematic analysis of the security of energy resources, the pressure of international competition for energy resources and the harm caused to human health, the environment and economy by exploitation and utilization of energy resources. They also made a systematic study of advanced new technologies for the exploitation and utilization of efficient and clean fossil energy resources, renewable energy resources, nuclear energy and hydrogen energy, and other new energy resources. They drew the following conclusions.
(1) Fossil energy resources are the major energy resource at present, constituting 92% and 90% of the nonrenewable commodity energy resources consumed in China and the world respectively. The large-scale but low efficient exploitation and utilization of fossil energy resources leads to an enormous waste of resources and serious environmental pollution. Domestic and foreign energy resources experts point out that the current way we produce and utilize energy resources is not sustainable; that given the present developmental trend of energy resources, it will be difficult for us to reach the goal of sustainable development any time soon; and that there should be a reorientation of the development of the global energy resources system. Therefore, we must look for a new philosophy and model for the development of energy resources, effectively utilize them, protect the natural environment by making scientific and technological innovations, and set up a sustainable system for using energy resources.
(2) The non-renewability of fossil fuels and the deteriorating ecological consequences arising from their use impel people to seek alternative technology for energy resource. Increased emphasis is being placed on developing technologies for new energy resources and renewable ones. It is expected that breakthroughs in technologies for nuclear energy, hydrogen energy and renewable energy resources will be made in the near future. In the century to come, these three will gradually develop into principal energy resources, and electric power will become the major energy resource that is directly utilized. A revolutionary alteration of the energy structure will make the long-cherished hope come true that mankind no longer need worry about the depletion of fossil energy resources and the deterioration of the natural environment, and it will promote the development of distributed energy resources and usher in a great change in consumption patterns. A transformation of the energy structure from fossil energy resources being dominant to new and renewable ones being dominant is a revolutionary change that requires a relatively long preparation and transition period. The large-scale replacement of fossil energy resources by new and renewable ones is an extremely arduous task that cannot be completed quickly. Moreover, compared with fossil energy resources, all renewable energy resources except hydroelectric power are still quite expensive. It is estimated that in the first half of the 21st century, fossil energy resources will still occupy the dominant position in China. During this period, China will rely chiefly on efficient energy-saving technology, clean coal technology and technology for developing and utilizing efficient and clean fossil energy resources to reduce environmental pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and make preparations for ushering in a new age in which efficient, clean and sustainable energy resources can be utilized.
(3) Using energy more efficiently and saving energy resources can reduce demand for energy resources, ensure the supply of energy, lower the energy intensity, and improve the competitiveness of enterprises and their products. Using energy more efficiently and saving energy resources are the most realistic, most economical and most effective approaches to reducing environmental pollution and greenhouse gas emissions as well as a necessary requirement for achieving sustainable development. China's energy-saving technology is backward, and China has great potential for saving energy. Therefore, adopting new advanced technologies to promote energy saving and upgrading the energy industry should be given top priority.
(4) At present, China's principal energy resource is coal. It is difficult to change this situation any time soon. The exploitation and utilization of coal is low efficient, and it seriously pollutes the environment and discharges a large quantity of greenhouse gases. Clean Coal Technology (CCT) is a general term for new technologies that can reduce environmental pollution and raise efficiency in processing, burning and transforming coal, as well as control pollution while coal is being exploited and utilized. Until future energy resources become available, the industrialization of CCT can not greatly improve the utilization efficiency of coal, reduce the quantity of pollutants emitted, and transform coal efficiently into liquid fuel and guarantee energy security. Therefore, CCT is a bridge leading to future energy resources. Developing and industrializing CCT is a realistic choice at the present stage of China’s energy development and of great importance to China at a time when it uses coal as its main energy resource.
(5) Petroleum and natural gas are fossil energy resources that are cleaner and have less greenhouse emissions than coal. In China’s nonrenewable energy consumption structure, the proportion of petroleum to natural gas is about 42%, lower than the world average. It is estimated that in the near future, the consumption of petroleum will continue to increase and that the natural gas industry will have the opportunity to grow rapidly, but China will have the problem of the demand for petroleum and natural gas outstripping the supply for a long time, and energy security in these areas is lacking. Therefore, we must pay attention to developing technologies for the efficient and clean development, to refining and utilization of oil and natural gas, and to developing and industrializing technologies that substitute other energy resources for oil and gas.
(6) Nuclear power is new energy resource that is relatively safe, reliable and competitive, as well as a clean available energy resource that can replace fossil energy resources on a large scale without emitting pollutants or greenhouse gases. Developing nuclear power is an effective way to lower the greenhouse effect and a necessary requirement as well for achieving sustainable development. Nuclear technology is developing: The advanced pressurized water reactor technology has already been developed; the fast neutron reactor technology is expected to become mature in the near future, and it is expected that a breakthrough will be made in controllable nuclear fusion technology and a prototype reactor will be built within 50 years. Nuclear fusion energy, which is a clean, safe and sustainable energy resource, will be developed. Nuclear energy will occupy an increasingly important position in China’s energy structure.
(7) Hydrogen energy is a new, ideal, clean and efficient energy resource. With the development of technology for producing hydrogen, storing and transporting hydrogen energy, and manufacturing fuel cells, hydrogen energy will become an alternative among new and renewable energy resources to replace fossil energy resources. The hydrogen energy resource system consists of the production, storage, transportation and utilization of hydrogen. A hydrogen energy system composed of solar energy and other renewable energy resources to make hydrogen, materials used to store hydrogen, and hydrogen fuel cells used to generate electricity, will constitute a zero emission, sustainable, broadly distributed source of energy. In the past decade, breakthroughs have been made in the proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC), which can be used to drive motor vehicles, thus making it possible for hydrogen energy to replace liquid and gas fuels. Therefore, developing hydrogen energy has broad prospects for application and is a realistic choice to guarantee China’s energy resources security.
(8) China must develop renewable energy resources in the 21st century to reduce environmental pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and to replace fossil fuels. China has an abundance of renewable energy resources with broad prospects for development and application.
Hydraulic power generation is clean and does not produce any greenhouse gases. China has rich water energy resources, and its hydraulic power generation technology is already mature and extensively applied. Both large hydraulic power generating stations and widely distributed small ones have a bright prospect for development in the future.
Biomass energy resources can be used as solid fuel to generate electricity, to make methane by means of biological disintegration, to make alcohol by means of fermentation and to obtain high quality liquid and gas fuels by means of high-temperature fast pyrolysis. When further breakthroughs are made in new technologies for efficient use of biomass energy, biomass energy will have a bigger development.
China has rich wind resources. Its wind power-generating technology is becoming mature. The cost of using wind to generate electricity is close to that of using oil and nuclear energy. It is estimated that in a few years, this kind of technology will develop further.
Solar energy can be transformed to thermal and electric energy. At present, it is rather expensive to generate photovoltaic energy, but there are good prospects for its development when further technological breakthroughs reduce its cost.
Geothermal energy and oceanic energy can be exploited and utilized in a distributive way adaptable to local conditions.
(9) It is realistic to expect that the development of efficient and clean technologies for fossil energy resources will make it possible to exploit resources better, recover them more efficiently, develop unconventional energy resources and make enterprises and their products more competitive. The use of high-resolution digital seismic exploitation technology, ternary compound oil displacement technology, coal-bed methane development technology and efficient electro-mechanically integrated coal production technology, and the use of advanced, high-technology will transform and improve the traditional fossil energy resources industry into a modern competitive industry.
The choice of advanced energy resources technology for industrialization should be based on national conditions and clear priorities. It should focus on what needs to be done and ignore what does not, and stick closely to the major problems and challenges that the energy industry faces in order to guarantee the security of China’s energy resources, make energy enterprises and their products more competitive, reduce pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions, and give priority to improving energy efficiency and saving energy resources. Projects with advanced, mature technologies, large markets, and good economic and social results, should be chosen for industrialization from among the key areas-efficient and clean exploitation and utilization of fossil energy resources, nuclear energy, new energy resources, and renewable energy resources.