Achieving China’s Target for Energy Intensity Reduction in 2010: An exploration of recent trends and possible future scenarios

Publication Type


Date Published




China's 11th Five-Year Plan (FYP) sets an ambitious target for energy-efficiency improvement: energy intensity of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) should be reduced by 20% from 2005 to 2010 (NDRC, 2006). This goal signals a major shift in China's strategic thinking about its long-term economic and energy development. It also provides further evidence that the Chinese government is serious in its call for a new "scientific development perspective" (科学发展观) to assure sustainability in accordance with long-run carrying capacity of the natural environment.

This target for energy efficiency is likely to be difficult to achieve, considering that energy consumption has grown more rapidly than GDP in the last five years and, as a result, energy use per unit of GDP (energy intensity) has increased. This recent trend in energy intensity stands in sharp contrast to the trend observed from 1980 to 2000, when energy demand grew less than half as fast as GDP and energy intensity declined steadily. China's long-term development plan, which calls for a quadrupling of GDP and doubling of energy use from 2000 to 2020, was based on this earlier experience, as are projections of China's energy consumption by major Chinese and international institutions (IEA, 2004; Zhou et al., 2003). However, if the recent trend continues, not only will it jeopardize China's development goals, it will also create significantly greater adverse environmental impacts and major threats to long-run sustainability. Further, it could introduce a huge "unexpected" disturbance to the global energy and climate system. It is in recognition of the likely costs of "run-away" energy growth that China's leaders have decided to highlight the need to reduce energy intensity.

With support from the China Sustainable Energy Program of the Energy Foundation, a team of scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is working with leading Chinese research institutions to analyze how China could achieve its energy-efficiency target within the next five years. This report summarizes the initial findings of this research.

The results are presented in four sections in this report. The first section provides a detailed analysis of energy intensity trends in China during the last ten years, highlighting the shift in industrial structure toward energy intensive sub-sectors such as steel and cement as the leading cause of the recent rebound in energy intensity in China. The second section provides an explorative analysis of possible scenarios through which efficiency gains could be achieved to reach the 20% target. The third section summarizes key energy use indices by sectors. Finally, a set of policy recommendations is presented. Two appendices are included: one describes the modeling approach used in the analysis and the second describes model drivers and outputs.

Year of Publication



Research Areas

Related Files