Buildings use more energy than any other sector in the world. Total building energy consumption in China is expected to triple through 2050 as a result of increasing urbanization, improving standards of living, and economic growth. A three-year collaborative study Reinventing Fire China: A Roadmap to China's Revolution of Energy, Production and Consumption to 2050 (Energy Research Institute et al., forthcoming) analyzed strategies to effectively reduce China's building energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions by half at little or no cost. The strategies evaluated include use of prefabricated construction methods, integrative design and passive buildings, super-efficient appliances, smart controls, clean fuel technologies, and renewable energy. Barriers continue to limit rapid market adoption of these strategies even though China has adopted many regulatory policies including building and equipment standards and codes, building labeling programs, retrofit targets, and subsidies for both residential and commercial buildings. Innovative, cross-cutting policy solutions are needed that address multiple barriers.
This paper reviews the major barriers to adoption of cost-effective low-energy and low emissions building designs and technologies in China, recommends policies to address multiple barriers, and presents a roadmap to achieving 50% energy reduction in Chinese buildings. The recommended policy solutions, which aim to lower energy usage while capturing the value of more efficient buildings, fall into four areas: disclosure and transparency, market forces, financing and investment, and codes and enforcement. Solutions are ranked according to their magnitude of impact and ease of implementation and identified as either "quick-win" or long-term approaches.