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Global Energy Market

Where nuclear power differs from a fossil-fuel burning power generation plant is the source of the heat for the boiler. Fossil fuels are coal, oil and natural gas, so-called hydrocarbons, which are enthusiastic about breaking down and joining with oxygen. This 'enthusiasm' takes the form of an exothermic reaction called 'oxidation', in which hydrocarbons combust, releasing large amounts of chemical potential energy in the form of heat.

China invested $315 billion (17.5% of world total 1.8 trillion dollars) in 2015 in energy supply, making it the world's largest energy investor. In particular, it is seeking to build low-carbon generation capacity, and improve energy efficiency. 1

Coal Use in China

Around half of the coal burnt in the world today is used in China for heating and electricity. After decades of inaction, the Chinese government is now ranking the pollution brown coal causes as a major problem, and is taking steps to reduce its dependence on this fossil fuel.

The smog in Beijing regularly hits dangerous levels. Along with some traffic restrictions, the government reacted by banning the use of coal for heating in 6 central districts as of 2020. Between 2014 and 2016 it shut four coal-fired power stations, planning to replace them with gas-fired stations.

Measures like these to reduce coal use have been taken primarily for the sake of public health, but they also allow China to claim it is doing its bit towards reducing CO2 emissions, and therefore for combating climate change. Natural gas is still a fossil fuel, but burns much more cleanly and efficiently than brown coal, and emits only half as much pollution for the same amount of energy.

China is expected to peak its coal demand around 2020. Since China uses half of the world's coal, this is also expected to peak world coal demand. However, despite rapid expansion of its renewable energy, making China the world's leader, with the highest installed wind capacity, no dramatic fall in coal demand is anticipated because the demand for electrical power is increasing at at least the same rate as renewables.

Source: 1 http://www.iea.org/newsroom/news/2016/september/world-energy-investment-2016.html

See also: China-EU Institute for Clean and Renewable Energy (CE-ICARE) icare.hust.edu.cn

India has some of the worst polluted cities in the world. The cost to human health and productivity is astronomical. The causes are vehicle emissions and reliance on fossil fuels for power generation.

With 18% of the world's population, India consumes only 6% of global primary energy (per capita 40% of world average). 240 million people in India (25%) do not have access to electrical supply. India will be the world's most populous nation soon, and its number of electricity consumers may double to well over a billion by the 2030s.

Electricity demand is increasing by 5% per annum. If every Indian consumed as much energy as the average American, the world's energy consumption would be doubled. Even if India continues to consume per capita 60% of world average, it will contribute around 25% to the world's rise in energy demand. This makes India the major global trendsetter in energy management.

With no oil or gas to call its own, India relies heavily on coal (70% of power). It is the largest growth market for coal in the world, and will account for nearly half of the worldwide added net coal capacity by 2040. It has large domestic coal resources, but still needs to import coal. Oil consumption could reach 10 million barrels a day by 2040 (10% of current consumption), creating a dangerous liability for the security of supply. Gas consumption will be 8% of total energy mix by 2040.

900 GW (80% of USA's current capacity) of new power capacity will be required by 2040 to met growth in demand and population size. India has pledged to ensure 40% of power by 2030 is generated by non-fossil fuel energy sources (nuclear, hydro, solar and wind). This includes 340 GW of new solar and wind projects. The installation progress is hampered by network, land use and financing problems.

India has 45 GW hydro capacity, and 23 GW wind power. It is aiming to reach 175GW installed renewable (excl. hydro) capacity by 2022, with solar providing a strong boost.

Primary Energy Demand: 1990: c. 300 Mtoe; 2000: 441 Mtoe; 2013: 775 Mtoe.

2000 /Mtoe2000 /%2013 /Mtoe2013 /%
Natural gas22546.56


Demand in 2000 = 376 TWh. 2013 = 897 TWh. This is an average 6.9% growth.

Electricity is only 15% of final energy consumption (up from 11% in 2000).

Capacity = 290 GW. Coal = 60%, hydropower = 15%, natural gas = 8%, nuclear = 3%.

Nuclear power: 21 reactors at 7 sites, for 6GW capacity. 6 more reactors are under construction, to add 4 GW. In 2008 the average load factor was 40%, due to fuel shortages. In 2008, India became a party to the Nuclear Suppliers' Group agreement, providing access to technology, expertise, reactor parts and uranium. By 2013, the average load factor rose to 80%.

Source of data: IndiaEnergyOutlook_WEO2015.pdf

The Japanese are famed for their cultural discipline and love of advanced technology. Their ambivalent record in applying these to the energy question makes an interesting model for how vested interests can obstruct and misdirect attempts by successive governments to develop a sustainable economy that does not damage the environment, while ensuring a high level of industrial and technological development.

In March 2011, an earthquake and subsequent tsunami caused the reactors of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station to fail. As a result, the surrounding area was permanently contaminated and rendered uninhabitable for 'human-scale eternity', and an unknown but large quantity of radionuclides escaped to contaminate the sea. This stimulated governments around the world to reassess their energy policies, to mixed results. What did Japan itself do?

In 2009, at the COP15 (15th Conference of the Parties - UNFCCC - UN Framework Convention on Climate Change), Japan made a pledge to reduce GHGs by 25% over 1990 by 2020. Their plan was to increase nuclear power generation from 30% to 50% of electricity production.

Fukushima sent this plan into reverse - for safety reasons, all nuclear reactors were gradually shut down and all reactors were off-line by 2013. The shortfall of 30% electricity generating capacity had to be made up by importing more fossil fuel - at the time quite expensive. Primarily LNG (liquefied natural gas), followed by oil and coal.

By the end of 2013, Japan was 94% reliant on imported energy (up from 80% in 2010). CO2 emissions went up by 25% to 110Mt. Electricity prices rose by 16% (domestic) and 25% (industry).

However, pressure to increase energy efficiency and renewable energy capacities also resulted.

Strategic Energy Plan 2014

In April 2014, the Japanese government adopted the fourth Strategic Energy Plan. METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) prepared the “Long-Term Energy Supply and Demand Outlook”, in force July 2015, covering the period 2015-2030. This plan addresses climate change objectives through a 2030 mix which foresees a decline in fossil fuels, some nuclear still, and increases in renewable energy. The SEP attempts to balance the 'three Es': energy security, economic efficiency, and environmental protection.

Japan's nationally determined contribution (INDC) for COP21 (Paris 30.11 - 12.12.15) was to reduce GHG emissions by 26% from 2013 to 2030. In May 2016, it adopted the Global Warming Countermeasures Plan, which foresees an 80% reduction (over 1990) in GHG emissions by 2050.

Through the 2016 National Energy and Environment Strategy for Technological Innovation towards 2050 (NESTI 2050), Japan is promoting energy technology innovation. By April 2020, the transmission and distribution segment of the electric power companies will be legally unbundled from the generation and retail segments. This is significant in that vested interests have been a major obstacle to the progress of transition policies.

Japanese Renewable Energy

There has been a marked favouritism in renewable energy development for solar, in particular PV (photovoltaic), and relatively little in the way of wind power generation. Japan has run a FIT (feed-in tariff) to subsidise renewable energy development since July 2012. PV now has more than 32 GW capacity. The flexibility of the power system needs to be upgraded to match this rapid improvement in generating capacity. Other renewables have not experienced similar levels of development. Current projections put R.E. at 22-24% of electricity generation by 2030.

The high costs of the FIT and other R.E. support policies are subject to annual reviews. An auction system or large solar PV projects is planned to start in April 2017. Measures to promote wind and geothermal are also being introduced in 2017. A simplification of environmental impact assessments will allow more large-scale R.E. (specifically windfarms) to be more easily passed.

A major hurdle to R.E. adoption in Japan is grid integration. The division of the distribution system to more or less independently managed geographical areas is a disincentive to traditional energy suppliers to encourage citizen-energy development. They do not wish to lose their monopoly control.

Japanese Energy Mix

Japan relies on oil for more than 40% of its TPES (Total Primary Energy Supply), but nearly 40% of its electricity is from coal. In this table, nuclear is very small since the Fukushima Daiichi disaster has at least temporarily forced a shut-down of the nuclear power industry in Japan. Power generation per capita is below the IEA average (9.9 MWh) at 8 MWh. TPES per capita is also below the IEA average (4.5 toe) at 3.4 toe (tonnes of oil equivalent).

Data from IEA Japan Energy Policies Report 2016, giving figures for 2015:

Energy TypeTPES /%TPES /MtoeElec. gen. /%Elec. gen. /TWh

The USA has an inconsistent energy record. Successive political swings between democrats and republicans has resulted in one mindset derailing the progress of the other mindset at regular intervals, leaving investment inconsistent and the market subject to powerful lobby groups from vested interests.

There has been significant growth in gas production, primarily through hydraulic fracturing (fracking), and light tight oil. At the same time, concerns about climate change due to fossil fuels has resulted in some progress towards mitigation policies and subsidy-supported expansion of renewables potential.

The Climate Action Plan: federal tax incentives to move away from fossil fuel dependence towards a more long-term sustainable economy.

PTC (Production Tax Credit) = (2013) 2.2 US-cent/kWh. End 2015 installed generation capacity in wind = 74.5 GW (second after China). Production = ca. 190 TWh electricity.

Some USA energy statistics (2014)


  • Population: 319.17 million
  • GDP: 16,156 bn $
  • Energy production: 2012 Mtoe = 84.2 EJ = 84.2 x 1018 J *
  • Net imports: 258 Mtoe
  • TPES (Total Primary Energy Source): 2216 Mtoe
  • Electricity consumption: Total = 4137 TWh (12.96 MWh/cap)
  • CO2 emissions: 5176 Mt (16.22 t/cap)
  • CO2/TPES = 2.34 t/toe
  • CO2/GDP = 0.32 kg CO2/$ (2010)
  • TPES/capita: 6.94 toe/capita
  • TPES/GDP: 0.14 toe/$1000

* toe (tonne of oil equivalent) is the energy released by the combustion of one tonne of crude oil.

1.0 toe = 41.868 GJ = 11.63 MWh (1 Wh = 3600 joules @ 1J per second for one hour)

1.0 EJ (Ectajoule) = 1.0 x 1018 J = 1.0 billion GJ

USA Electricity Generation Statistics

Data from IEA USA 2014 Energy. Figures in table are for 2012:

Energy TypeTPES /%TPES /MtoeElec. gen. /%Elec. gen. /TWh

Installed capacity = 1068 GW (2012). Peak demand = 782.5 GW (2012).

Data source: International Energy Agency www.iea.org