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Energy use in commercial building in China: Current situation and future scenarios

Florian Bressand, Affiliation: McKinsey Global Institute, USA
Nan Zhou and Jiang Lin, Environmental Energy Technologies Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, USA


China, commercial building, energy intensity, energy efficiency, scenario, elasticity


While China’s 11th Five Year Plan called for a reduction of energy intensity, whether and how the energy consumption trend could be changed in a short time has been hotly debated. This research intends to evaluate the impact of a variety of scenarios of GDP growth, energy elasticity and energy efficiency improvement on energy consumption in commercial buildings in China using a detailed China End-use Energy Model.

China’s official energy statistics have limited information on energy demand by end use; further, China uses a different classification system for energy reporting, so official sectoral energy breakdown has long been questioned. It is a particularly pertinent issue for building energy consumption, for example, in China’s statistics it only accounts for about 13 % of the total, while it is about 30 % in other countries. Therefore, it is crucial to evaluate and understand the reality, rather than simply accepting it, as many of the energy analysts have done. The authors have applied reasoned judgments, based on experience of working on Chinese efficiency standards and energy related programs, to present a realistic interpretation of the current energy data. The bottom-up approach allows detailed consideration of end use intensity, equipment efficiency, etc.—as a way to apply judgments, thus facilitating assessment of impacts of specific policy and technology changes on building energy use.

The results suggest that 1) commercial energy consumption in China’s current statistics is underestimated by about 44 % and the fuel mix is misleading; 2) energy efficiency improvements will not be sufficient to offset the strong increase in end-use penetration and intensity in commercial buildings, and energy (particularly electricity) intensity in commercial buildings will increase; 3) different GDP growth and elasticity scenarios could lead to a wide range of floor area growth, and therefore, significant impact energy consumption in commercial buildings.


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