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Contact: Charles E. Blue
cblue@aip.org
301-209-3091
American Institute of Physics

Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy highlights energy trends in China

The American Institute of Physics' Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy (JRSE) has published a special issue on emerging energy trends in China. Eight selected papers present modeling and policy analysis of the diffusion of new energy technologies in the rapidly developing country. Two of the papers, one examining bioenergy consumption and one studying the economics of cooking fuel, are summarized below.

Researchers Explore Bioenergy Utilization in China

With China the largest growing economy in the world, scientists and policymakers alike are keenly interested in the country's increasing use of biomass instead of polluting and climate-harming fossil fuels for energy generation. Although bioenergy consumption has more than doubled from 2005 to 2010, few studies have evaluated exactly where, in the vast country, this shift is taking place and through what means.

In a new paper, Shiyan Chang, an assistant professor of energy system analysis at Beijing's Tsinghua University, and graduate student Lili Zhao examine changes in the geographical distribution of bioenergy utilization in China, like biogas and biomass power generation, and biomass resources, like livestock and poultry excrement, agricultural residues, and municipal waste. The paper appears in a special issue of the American Institute of Physics' Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy (JRSE) that focuses on emerging energy trends in China.

The researchers used a metric known as the Gini coefficient, commonly used in fields such as sociology and economics to compare inequalities in income or wealth among groups. They found that the Gini coefficient of household biogas continually decreased from 1999 to 2010 suggesting more widespread dispersion of the energy source and the coefficient of on-grid biomass power generation decreased sharply from 2007 to September 2010. The study also showed that municipal solid waste was the most widely dispersed form of biomass and that, with the exception of household biogas, which is used mainly in southwestern Chinese provinces, most bioenergy use occurs in the eastern part of the country.

Over the study period, Chang says, "the spatial pattern of bioenergy in China has been significantly reshaped," with the differences among provinces "getting smaller and smaller." Crucial to this shift, she says, are government policies that promote the widespread technology adoption of biogas, and of biomass- and waste-power generation schemes.

One significant finding was that biomass resources remain more dispersed than bioenergy utilization, suggesting, Chang says, "that there is still great potential for bioenergy development in China to efficiently use all kinds of biomass resources."

Title: "The pattern of bioenergy utilization in China: a spatial difference analysis"
Journal: Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy
Authors: Shiyan Chang (1) and Lili Zhao (2)

(1) Low Carbon Energy Laboratory, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China
(2) Institute of Energy, Environment and Economy, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China


Cooking Fuel Transition in China

Despite China's booming economy, many poor individuals continue to use traditional stoves that burn low-grade solid fuels like charcoal and coal. Such stoves generate high levels of indoor air pollution that cause dire health problems, especially in women and children. These health concerns include asthma, bronchitis, and heart disease. By 2030, a new study predicts, nearly a quarter of the rural population and one-sixth of city dwellers could still be using such stoves. However, with a relatively small per capita investment, the study suggests, those values could drop to zero.

The study, led by Brijesh Mainali of the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, appears in a special issue of the American Institute of Physics' Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy (JRSE) that focuses on emerging energy trends in China.

Mainali, who has been working in the field of rural energy for the past 15 years, along with senior researcher Shonali Pachauri and researcher Yu Nagai both from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Vienna, Austria modeled cooking fuel and stove choices in both rural and urban Chinese populations. Choices were modeled to depend on standard economic variables such as income, technology costs, and fuel prices, along with some variables unique to developing countries such as inconvenience costs.

The analysis revealed that, under a business-as-usual scenario, 24 percent of the rural and 17 percent of the urban population might still depend on solid fuels in 2030. For an annual cost of just $2.39 per person, the researchers found, universal access to modern fuels could be achieved by that date in urban areas. Providing such fuels to rural areas would cost substantially more an estimated $10.75 per person but, Mainali notes, "the associated reductions in the adverse impacts on health and emissions of greenhouse gases, as well as general improvements in socio-economic welfare that are likely to accompany any access policies, justify such investment." Once there is access to modern fuels, he says, "the change that it brings to lives and society also changes prosperity levels and thus, in the long run, the required subsidies could be phased out or reduced."

Title: "Analyzing Cooking Fuel and Stove Choices in China Till 2030"
Journal: Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy
Authors: Brijesh Mainali (1,2), Shonali Pachauri (2), Yu Nagai (2,3)

(1) Royal Institute of Technology, KTH, Stockholm, Sweden
(2) International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Laxenburg, Austria
(3) Technische Universitat Wien, Vienna, Austria

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