China Energy Program
We work collaboratively with researchers in China and around the world to understand the dynamics of China's energy system. Our research focuses on the analysis of energy and related emissions trends, technologies and policies on various sectors in China's economy.
The China Energy Program was founded in 1988 and works collaboratively with partners in China and around the world to understand the dynamics of China's energy system, energy use, and associated impacts on the environment and global climate, and to identify ways to address energy, environment, and climate challenges. Research is conducted at the intersection of science, technology, policy, and economics with collaborators around the world.
We focus on capturing emerging opportunities in four key sectors: industry, buildings, transportation, and power. We conduct innovative research on effective paths and implementation strategies for these sectors to achieve net zero emissions. In addition, we encompass a wide range of important cross-sector topics including subnational decarbonization, bilateral government climate cooperation, international knowledge transfer, just energy transitions, non-CO2 impacts, and technology innovation policies to achieve zero emissions.
The next 30 years will be a critical period for China to achieve peaking of carbon dioxide emissions and embark on a pathway to achieve mid-century carbon neutrality. With a long and well-established network of partners in China and with our partner's strong trust, Berkeley Lab’s China Energy Program is uniquely well-equipped to continue to have a beneficial impact on achieving these goals.
The China Energy Outlook (CEO) provides a detailed review of China's energy use and trends. China is the world’s largest consumer and producer of primary energy as well as the world’s largest emitter of energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2). China surpassed the U.S. in primary energy consumption in 2010 and in CO2 emissions in 2006. In 2018, China was responsible for 21% of total global primary energy use and about 29% of global energy-related CO2 emissions.
CEO 2020 available for download: eta-publications.lbl.gov/publications/china-energy-outlook-understanding
Industry Cross-Cutting System Analysis
China’s industrial production is responsible for 70% of the country’s and 28% of the world’s energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Decarbonization efforts typically focus on industry-specific technologies. Data on cross-cutting systems, such as steam system, process heating systems, and motors system are not publicly available for Chinese industries.
Berkeley Lab researchers developed a proxy method to quantify the energy flow by fuel types in China’s most energy intensive industries: steel, chemicals, cement, petroleum refining, and aluminum. We developed the first-ever energy flow Sankey diagrams to illustrate the energy flow-in and flow-out within each of these industries. The data can be used to support cross cutting system analysis, understanding system-level energy use and efficiency, as well as potential to decarbonize the energy use at the system-level.
Industrial Heat Decarbonization
Industrial heat accounted for about 30% of global final energy demand and 21% of global CO2 emissions in 2018. Widely viewed as one of the most hard-to-abate sectors, industry accounted for more than one third of global GHG emissions. Industrial heat, representing for about 30% of global final energy use in 2018, primarily (81%) comes from burning of fossil fuels. CO2 emissions associated with industrial heat production represent 21% of global CO2 emissions, as shown in the Figure below. Renewable heat and electricity provided heat only contributed to 9% and 10% to the industrial heat production in 2018, respectively.
Figure 1: Contribution of Industrial Heat to Global Final Energy Demand and CO2 Emissions in 2018
Sources: BloombergNEF and WBCSD, 2021; Lovins, 2021; Rissman et al.2020; Thiel and Stark, 2021.
Berkeley Lab conducts technological assessments and techno-economic analysis of key technologies to decarbonize industrial heat, including assessing industrial heat characteristics, technology potential and opportunities, barriers, and potential solutions to implement and scale up technological adoption.
Building Materials Decarbonization
Embodied emissions from building materials contributed to 17% of China’s total CO2 emissions, emitting more than 1.4 Gt of CO2 emissions per year. As China pledges to peak its CO2 emissions before 2030 and reach carbon neutrality before 2060, few studies have analyzed the whether and how China can fully decarbonize its embodied emissions in the buildings sector.
Berkeley Lab developed an integrated model that combines the demand and supply of key building materials, investigated specific measures in energy efficiency, material efficiency, fuel switching, electrification, and carbon capture and storage, and quantified embodied energy and CO2 emission pathways.
Industry Decomposition Analysis
Industry sector accounted for 65% of China’s total primary energy use and about 70% of its energy-related CO2 emissions in 2020. It is critical to transform China’s industry in order to achieve China’s “Dual-Carbon” goals and the updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
For many years, the Chinese government has been calling for “structural shift” as one of the key ways to modernize its economy. However, the share of gross domestic product (GDP) from the Chinese secondary (industry) sector has remained relatively flat, at around 40% from 1991 to 2019, significantly higher than other advanced countries, such as Japan (29%), Germany (28%), United States (18%), and the OECD countries (average 22%). While the Chinese tertiary (service) sector share of GDP seems to be on track to meet its goal of 56% by 2020, the most significant “structural shift” in China over the past 15 years has been the declining contribution from the primary (agricultural) sector, rather than secondary (industry) sector, as shown in the Figure below. Industry’s share of total energy use as well as energy-related CO2 emissions in China has stayed at around 70% since 1980.
Figure 2. Share of Sectoral Value Added in China’s GDP and Value-added by Sector
Sources: NBS, various years; NBS, 2019c; NBS, 2013.
Note: The secondary sector in China is defined as mining, manufacturing (not including repair of metal products, machinery) and equipment), construction, and production and supply of power, heat, natural gas and water. Primary sector includes agriculture, forestry, farming, and fishing. Tertiary sector refers to the service industry.
Berkeley Lab conducted analysis to identify drivers of China’s recent industry energy and CO2 emissions trends, evaluated the impact of key drivers using decomposition analysis, conducted interviews with Chinese industry experts and policymakers, and provided policy recommendations to support China’s industry transition.
Net-Zero Roadmap for Steel Industry
The iron and steel industry accounts for over 7% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and around a quarter of GHG emissions from the industrial sector worldwide. Global steel production has more than doubled between 2000 and 2018, dominated by China which produces half of the world’s steel. Energy use and GHG emissions of the steel industry are likely to continue to increase because the growing demand for steel, particularly in developing countries, is outpacing the incremental decreases in energy and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions intensity of steel production that are happening under current policy and technology regimes.
In this project, we are developing technology pathways that include demand reduction, energy efficiency, fuel switching, technology shift, and carbon capture, utilization, and storage to assess the potential of each decarbonization strategy in order to achieve carbon neutrality in China’s steel sector. We also engage with a number of Chinese collaborators, including industry associations, universities, government think tanks, and research institutes to identify and develop policy support to accelerate the energy transition in China’s steel industry.
Codes and Standards
Mandatory or voluntary building energy codes and standards for new or existing buildings can play an important role in energy conservation. Studies indicate that efficiency standards can generate energy reductions of 20 to 40% or more. Since the 1990’s, Berkeley Lab has been working with emerging economies on building energy codes and standards development. Our work has involved training in the use of DOE-2, EnergyPlus, and other building energy simulation software, as well as assistance in the drafting and implementation of building energy standards.
In Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Berkeley Lab worked with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to support commercial building energy efficiency standard development, with a focus on Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. For more, visit the ASEAN-USAID Building Energy Conservation Project.
Currently, Berkeley Lab is conducting research to support next-generation outcome-based and net/nearly zero energy building (NZEB) codes and standards. Click here for a case-study-driven review of NZEB in hot and humid climates with technology choices and design features to support future codes and standards development.
At the urban scale, we collaborated with China Green Buildings Council (GBC) to jointly develop low carbon district standards. The Chinese green district standard’s performance was compared with U.S. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards.
Benchmarking and Retrofit Targeting
Building operations account for 28% of global CO2 emissions. However, according to Architecture 2030, less than 1% of buildings are retrofitted annually. In order to increase the speed and scale of building retrofits globally, Berkeley Lab developed the Building Efficiency Targeting Tool for Energy Retrofits (BETTER) – a free web application that quickly and easily identifies retrofit measures to decarbonize and electrify buildings.
Winner of a 2020 R&D 100 Award and the 2020 Berkeley Lab Director's Award for Exceptional Achievement in Technology Transfer, BETTER utilizes minimal data inputs to benchmark a building’s or portfolio’s energy use against peers; quantify energy, cost, and GHG reduction potential for investors; and recommend measures to decarbonize and electricity individual buildings or portfolios, targeting specific savings levels. Click here to access the BETTER web application.
Building Sector Policy Development
Berkeley Lab is working with China, India, and other emerging economies on different aspects of building energy efficiency policy development by drawing on its expertise in the areas of: building sector modeling, electrification, operational and embodied CO2 emissions, and voluntary program design.
Building Sector Modeling
Berkeley Lab works with emerging country national and local governments to develop, evaluate, and model the long-term impact of building energy efficiency on their economies. In 2016, Berkeley Lab developed building sector models with China National Development and Reform Commission, Energy Research Institute, and Rocky Mountain Institute for the groundbreaking Reinventing Fire China study. The modeling framework was subsequently applied to support additional cities to calculate CO2 emission reduction potentials and to establish low emission development pathways. Berkeley Lab has also collaborated with the C40 Climate Leadership Group to investigate policy advancement in Chinese cities to decarbonize their building sector. For more on our modeling capabilities, visit Energy Modeling and Pathways.
Berkeley Lab also develops electrification scenarios to enhance renewables adoption and decarbonize the building sector. Recently, we conducted an in-depth analysis of how electrification can help decarbonize China’s building sector. It was determined that by switching cooking, water heating, and space heating fossil fuel energy to clean energy electricity, China could significantly reduce its building sector CO2 emission from 4,000 metric tons to 1,000 metric tons and achieve a sectoral electrification rate approximately 75%.
Embodied CO2 Emissions
In addition to analysis of energy and CO2 emissions from building operations, Berkeley Lab works actively to analyze and address emerging economies’ building sector embodied CO2 emissions from materials and construction. For more on this work, see a recent joint study with Tsinghua University which found that embodied CO2 emissions from building construction and materials in China was approximately 1600 metric tons and accounted for 17% of the country’s total CO2 emissions in 2015. When combined with building operations, China’s total building sector CO2 emission grew to 3900 metric tons and accounted for 41% of China’s total CO2 emissions in 2015.
Voluntary Program Design
Best practices for high performance buildings are demonstrated and disseminated through Berkeley Lab’s international building sector research network. The Better Buildings Challenge (BBC) - China program is an example of a program Berkeley Lab helped establish to facilitate building owners and managers to voluntarily set and achieve ambitious energy savings targets by implementing operational and technological best practices.
Berkeley Lab is home to the world’s most advanced integrated building and grid technologies testbed: the Facility for Low Energy Experiments in Buildings (FLEXLAB), which allows users to develop and test energy-efficient building and grid technologies individually or as an integrated system, under real-world conditions. Berkeley Lab supported the development of an international version of FLEXLAB in collaboration with the Singapore Building Construction Authority (BCA). The testbed, called Skylab, is designed to experiment with integration of high-performance technologies in buildings and to provide researchers and the public with data and visibility into the built environment.
Berkeley Lab also works with partners in emerging economies to assess sustainable design and low carbon building operation. See our recent publication, Model for China’s Future, which provides a case study of the Shenzhen Institute of Building Research (IBR) Headquarters - a living laboratory and has proven to be a model building for sustainable design throughout the world.
Direct Current (DC) Power and Renewable Integration
As solar renewable energy and battery storage are all operated in DC power, developing a DC power distribution system to better integrate with renewable energy in buildings is becoming increasingly important. Berkeley Lab works collaboratively with industry and researchers to develop DC power pilot buildings in the U.S. and internationally. Studies have shown that DC power distribution in buildings has less system wide energy loss, and can also yield other benefits such as power safety, smart control and making buildings grid-friendly. Visit our publications page to learn more about our work in DC power and renewable energy integration.
District Energy Systems
Berkeley Lab developed a district energy planning tool, known as DEEP, for campus and small district scale energy planning to benefit the United States and emerging economies. The tool integrates heating, cooling, and electric loads with low energy resources. It calculates the most suitable technologies for district solutions. Equipment cost and heating and cooling pipelines are considered to help users optimize the topology of the system and find the best technological solutions for a community. DEEP provides free cloud-based online computational solutions.
Indoor Environmental Quality
As numerous emerging economies are experiencing severe air quality issues, mitigating indoor environmental pollutants and protecting occupants has become a critical component of high performance buildings research at Berkeley Lab. One person spends 90% of his/her time indoors. Thus, providing occupants, especially vulnerable groups like children and elderly, with good environmental air quality is extremely important.
Berkeley Lab conducts research to apply air filtration technologies to the ventilation system in buildings to reduce indoor occupants’ exposure to particulate matter. We also conduct research to develop air-cleaning technologies to remove pollutants such as Volatile Organic Components (VOC). In response to the COVID-19 threat, Berkeley Lab is also studying the drivers of airborne contaminants and particle transmission in the indoor environment. High resolution numerical simulations and experiment tests are being conducted to learn the contaminant distributions and transport mechanism. For more, visit Berkeley Lab’s Indoor Environment Group.
U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center for Building Energy Efficiency (CERC-BEE)
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center for Building Energy Efficiency (CERC-BEE) program is a ten-year initiative directed by Berkeley Lab to support leading scientists from the United States and China in research to accelerate the development and deployment of advanced building technologies for real world impact.
CERC-BEE involves over 20 U.S. companies and 60 world-class scientists and focuses on technology innovation, evaluation, and real-building field validation. Through 2020, CERC-BEE has delivered 17 new products, 20 new copyrighted software tools, and 84 peer-reviewed publications. Numerous CERC-BEE technologies have earned prestigious awards, including: 2020, 2016, and 2013 R&D 100 Awards, a 2020 Berkeley Lab Director’s Award for Technology Transfer, a 2019 Keeling Curve Prize Honorable Mention, a 2019 HIVE 50 Award, a 2018 Best of Design Award for Digital Fabrication and a 2016 Gold Edison Award.
For more information, visit the CERC-BEE website.
Passive Houses and Net-Zero Energy/Emission Buildings
We provide policy strategies to enhance the deployment of sustainable solutions in buildings through energy-efficient design and renewable energy integration. Buildings account for almost 30% of global CO2 emissions. Large savings in energy use (75% or higher) are possible in new buildings through better designs. The passive house standard is the most rigorous energy efficient building code today. Passive house standard provides a premise for meeting net-zero energy/emission building goals.
As buildings become increasingly efficient, the embodied emissions generated from the production of building materials and construction processes will become more prominent. For highly energy-efficient buildings, the share of embodied GHG emissions over buildings’ life cycle could escalate to 45-50% and surpasses 90% in extreme cases. One of the ways to reduce embodied GHG emissions is by employing the offsite construction (OC) approach. OC offers opportunities to reduce waste, test sustainable materials, and produce highly energy-efficient products and units in a factory-controlled environment.
Viewing OC as a catalyzer to accelerate building decarbonization, we provide comprehensive research programs to help address industry barriers. These include laboratory testing for new design, product, and construction management processes, start-up incubation, firm innovation pattern analysis, financing models, policy design and evaluation, and life-cycle analysis for carbon emissions and costs, etc.
A clean-power future benefits the U.S., China and the world.
The China Energy Group conducts joint technical research, pilot demonstrations, and policy analysis on pathways to clean power system, power sector market reform, demand response (DR) and demand-side management (DSM), integration of renewable energy, distributed energy resources (DER), and microgrids with partners in both the U.S. and China.
Pathways of clean power transition: In this research area, we assess technically feasible and economically viable pathways for transitioning to a zero-emissions power sector in China. One of our recent studies finds that more than 60% of China's electricity could come from non-fossil sources by 2030 at a cost that is about 10% lower than achieved through a business-as-usual approach (figure below), given rapid cost decrease of renewable energy technologies.
We have also examined the resource, economic, and institutional implications of reducing and replacing coal generation in China with mostly renewable energy by 2040. We find that, to do so, it will require a rapid scale-up of zero-emission resources, a transformation of planning, market, and regulatory institutions in its electricity sector, and a policy commitment to restrict investment in new coal generation after 2020.
Power sector reform: the electricity market is likely to play an increasingly important role in more efficiently allocating resources, integrating renewable energy, and shaping future investment decisions as China considers its transition to a zero emission power system. In the area of power sector reform collaboration, our research, sponsored by the State Department’s Bureau of Energy Resources and others, focuses on relevant U.S. and Chinese experiences on renewable energy utilization, DR, and wholesale and retail market choices, with a view towards China's replicating/adopting lessons learned across provinces. The activities included information-gathering on, sharing of international best practices, and visit/exchanges that explore current conditions and challenges in each pilot province/city, assessing specific pilot challenges, recommendations, and joint development of policy recommendations on the pilots and broader, market-opening reforms in China's power sector. Some of our recent studies have examined the economic and environmental benefits of the electricity market in China’s southern grid region and the Guangdong province. Our recent collaborative research also examined the need to coordinate the Chinese carbon market and the renewable certificate market.
The China Energy Group works closely with China National Energy Administration (NEA) on its microgrid and distribution generation policies. During the 12th Five Year Plan, LBNL worked with NAE’s affilated Chinese institutes to develop a microgrid development technical guidance and policy recommendation for microgrid demonstration projects.The U.S. and international microgrid experience was extracted and analyzed as an example for China to develop its own policy.
During the 13th FYP, based on LBNL and its partners’ policy and technical research, NEA issued a policy to build nationwide “Internet+ Smart Energy DemonstrationsProject”. We are working with China to conduct benefits analysis of microgrid demonstration projects. We are also using Berkeley Lab's Distributed Energy Resource Customer Adoption Model (DER-CAM) and District Energy Planning (DEEP) to help optimize design and operation of microgrids, especially in building and campus.
LBNL also actively integrates microgrid research with other smart grid areas such as demand response. Research showed that a demand response enabled microgrid can dispatch clean energy efficiently and bring benefits to the microgrid and the whole power grid.
Demand-Side Management (DSM) and Demand Response (DR)
Demand-side management (DSM) has been one of the areas of China's electric power research that we have focused on. In recent years, our focus has been on improving grid flexibility through demand response (DR) and demand-side resources. LBNL researchers have been studying international best practices and effective mechanisms to promote development of DR. We have also conducted joint end-to-end DR automation testing to demonstrate the integration of utility DR management systems, DR products, and end-use control sequences with standards-based DR signals to accelerate acceptance of manufactured DR products in both countries (sponsored by Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity).
LBNL worked with State Grid and Southern Power Grid through the U.S.-China Climate Change Working Group (CCWG) since 2013. In the CCWG platform, LBNL and its Chinese counterparts developed a smart grid benefit analysis method to calculate techno-economics of smart grid investment at power distribution level. A joint smart grid collaboration white paper is published. In recent CCWG collaboration, LBNL worked with State Grid and Southern Power Grid to test demand response technologies and protocols. The U.S. and Chinese partners tested typical demand response related technologies including: Variable Frequency Drive (VFD), Thermostat, Lighting and smart meters. LBNL tested DR performance in a typical building setup using its Flexlab testbed.
In this area, we are also conducting studies to develop recommendations on enhancing DR value by integrating DR into power system dispatch procedures, maximizing DR potential through tapping opportunities beyond peak load management, and creating roles for load aggregators to deliver greater DR value. Our research in this area also focuses on examining how effective tariffs and compensation incentives help increase DR in the US and China. Recently, in collaboration with Chinese researchers, we have provided a series of recommendations for the formulation of China’s 14th Five-Year Plan demand-side management work plan.
A number of articles and research reports reflect our diverse research in this area, including: Integrated DR in intermittent wind power generation and local power energy demand; enabling demand response in district energy systems for energy retail and wholesale; sharing demand-side resources among multiple prosumers, applying frequency regulation demand response in industrial load and demand dispatch. Resilient modeling of community energy system integrated with demand response.
China's fast-growing transport sector is a key driver of the growth of national energy demand, particularly for petroleum products, despite significant progress in efficiency improvements and fuel switching. While China leads in electrifying its passenger vehicle fleet, decarbonizing heavy duty trucks remains a key challenge. Our team explored and quantified the potential impacts of different vehicle and operational efficiency, electrification and other fuel switching strategies for reducing diesel demand, and related CO2 emissions and air pollutants, from China’s heavy-duty trucking sector.
Heavy-duty trucks in the road freight sector are a growing area of focus for reducing transportation-related oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions because of this sector’s disproportionate environmental impacts and the technical challenges of mitigating them. Read more:
Industry Cross-Cutting System Analysis
We employ rigorous modeling and social science methodologies, as well as program implementation to inform energy and climate policies that help to accelerate building and urban sustainability transitions.
Subnational climate action support
Over the past 35 years, we have undertaken both analytical and on-the-ground program implementation to develop and introduce clean energy and climate mitigation resources to urban researchers and policymakers. This included training over 600 researchers and officials from more than 20 Chinese cities in the application of our guidebooks, strategies, and tools.
China Energy Program also served as the U.S. Secretariat for The Climate-Smart / Low Carbon Cities Initiative of the US-China Climate Change Working Group (CCWG).
The U.S. and China have both announced their own carbon neutrality targets in 2020. To realize these ambitious goals, implementing climate actions at the subnational levels will be key to success in the 2020s. Based on our earlier work developing China Green Low-Carbon City Index for more than 100 Chinese cities, we will continue to develop data infrastructure, research, and peer-learning programs to accelerate carbon-neutral urban transformation in both countries.
Energy innovation decision science
We apply surveys, interviews, and econometric analysis approaches to support the development and deployment of cleantech sector strategy by analyzing:
- Technology learning and policy diffusion: how and why sustainable technology, practices, and policies diffuse into the society over time;
- Users and adoption: understanding human behaviors and patterns in adopting demand-side innovations, including commercial demand response programs and energy efficiency home upgrades;
- Innovation database: we compile and maintain a comprehensive innovation database to support energy and climate modeling and decision making, particularly focusing on technological and social innovations that help to reduce and manage energy demand.
Energy Efficiency Financing
Today, China has the most comprehensive policy package in the world to advance green financing. Despite this, due to historical reliance on grants and subsidies to advance China’s energy and emissions reduction goals, there are still significant barriers to leveraging private capital for energy efficiency, resulting in the absence of energy efficiency as an asset class and slowing market adoption of advanced energy efficiency technologies.
Berkeley Lab is working with China in the financing space to:
- Uncover market and technical barriers to energy-efficiency financing
- Build financial institution capacity on advanced building technologies that represent business and financial opportunities
- Develop and pilot innovative energy-efficiency financial products
- Analyze data on the performance of energy-efficiency financial products in order to continue to improve product performance and market uptake
Berkeley Lab’s leadership on building energy efficiency financial product research and development was recognized with a 2019 Keeling Curve Prize Honorable Mention for innovation in financing tools and techniques. For more on this work, read one of our recent publications.
Since coal accounts for more than half of China's energy mix, the Chinese coal industry plays a pivotal role in influencing the trajectory of climate change. Driving the transformation of the Chinese coal industry will be key to achieving China’s carbon neutrality goals and Paris Agreement targets. However, unlike industrialized countries where the coal industry's dwindling share of energy production makes the impact of coal phase-out more manageable, China today employs millions of people in coal-related industries and many Chinese cities depend on coal related activities. If the coal industry lags behind in China's ongoing energy transition, millions of jobs will be affected. Therefore, promoting a just transition is crucial for China, especially its coal industry.
The coal industry occupies an important place in China's energy system, and failure to integrate the industry into energy transition efforts could lead to coal industry resistance to change, creating challenges for transition. Our researchers have been working with institutions in the Chinese coal industry to introduce global best practices in policy, technology, marketization, and implementation to drive a just energy transition. We are also providing technical assistance to support Chinese coal industry's efforts to create a bottom-up and insider approach that can help accelerate the transformation of China's coal industry, as it enables the coal industry to align its transition needs with China's carbon neutrality goals.
Contact: Bo Shen