As the largest energy consumer in the world, energy efficiency and conservation have been prioritized in China to meet its fast-growing appetite for energy as a result of industrialization and urbanization, as well as to alleviate environmental pressure and tackle climate change. Evidence from analytical and case studies shows that High Impact Opportunities (HIO) for energy efficiency are not yet being fully utilized due to the complexity of coordination between economic development and energy efficiency in developing countries such as China.

Based on energy conservation potentials, cost-effectiveness, application prospects and practical feasibilities, the report identifies six HIOs for further and faster energy efficiency improvements in China before 2050, including promoting industrial waste-heat recovery technologies, which would potentially save around 200 million tce of energy by 2050; promoting passive house and air source pump technologies, which would conserve energy use in the building sector by around 220 million tce and 50 million tce by 2050 respectively; upgrading the fuel economy of trucks and promoting electric vehicles, which have the potential to save around 45.94 million tce and 49.22 million tce respectively by 2050; and retrofitting conventional coal-fired power plants, which would save around 56 million tce by 2050.

To move forward in tapping these HIOs for energy efficiency, this report also draws up two project concept notes (PCN) on concrete energy-efficiency projects to be implemented at the local level. The first PCN describes how to promote passive houses in Beijing, the second to promote air source heat pump technologies in buildings in the Yangtze River region. Beijing has implemented the strictest energy-efficiency standards for buildings in China, yet the standards need to be upgraded extensively in response to the bad air pollution. The Yangtze River region has the potential to increase China’s building energy consumption in the future in respect of heating supply in winter.

In the case of the first PCN, describing the promotion of passive houses, it is estimated that completely adopting passive houses in new buildings by 2030 would reduce energy use by 343 million tce annually (total floor area of new buildings: 30 billion m2 in the whole of China), with a requirement for an additional investment of 17.88 trillion RMB. In the case of the second PCN, to promote air source heat pumps (ASHPs), it is estimated that completely adopting ASHP technologies would reduce energy use by 60-90 million tce, with a total investment of 1.0-1.2 trillion RMB (6 billion m2 of existing buildings in the Yangtze River region). Despite the high upfront incremental investment, the potential net present value (NPV) of energy savings during the buildings’ use life would exceed the costs set out in both PCNs.

Publication Details


China Energy Efficiency Series
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