Rocky Mountain Institute Lays Out Realistic Clean Energy Economy Roadmap for China

Great work by the Rocky Mountain Institute — in partnership with the Energy Research Institute of China’s National Development and Reform Commission (ERI), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), and Energy Foundation China (EF China) — in laying out a realistic, achievable, economically attractive path towards a clean energy economy in China by 2050. You can download the Executive Summary here, but for now here’s a summary of the key points and a few graphics which illustrate where China could be in a few decades.

      • Win, win, win: The report “demonstrates how China can reduce its carbon emissions by 42 percent below 2010 levels by 2050 and grow its economy 600 percent while saving a net $3.1 trillion over the investments required.”
      • Much lower carbon emissions: “China can peak emissions 11 years earlier and 30 percent lower than the reference scenario. To do so, China must take advantage of cost-effective and commercially available technology” — particularly energy efficiency, solar and wind power.
      • Economy booms, energy use doesn’t: “Reinventing Fire: China lays a path for China to use the same amount of energy in 2050 as it did in 2010, while still growing its economy six times and providing a better standard of living for its people.”

    • Moving from a fossil-fuel-dominated power generation mix to one based overwhelmingly on clean energy: “Replacing fossil-based energy with clean alternatives, such as wind, solar, and hydropower, shifts China’s electric grid from being over three-fourths fossil generation in 2010 to being 82 percent non-emitting by 2050.”

    • China electrifies: “As the electric grid is powered more by clean energy, it also makes more sense for China to electrify its economy as an accelerant to decarbonization. For example, a cleaner grid means electric vehicles powered off it would be fueled by the wind and sun rather than gasoline, making it easier for China to achieve its peaking goals.”
    • China slashes coal use: “In 2050, with the same energy demand as 2010 but substantially more non-fossil energy use, China can largely abandon the coal that plagues its cities, rivers, and skies…By fuel switching—the process of replacing dirty fuels with cleaner sources—China can use 60 percent less coal in 2050 than it did in 2010.”

  • China’s investments pay off big time: “[T]he Reinventing Fire: China pathway is not the business-as-usual scenario; it requires upfront investment of 35 trillion RMB ($5.2 trillion), which in turn, yields savings of 56 trillion RMB ($8.3 trillion).”