7 June 2007

China's energy blackhole: Buildings

Buildings account for nearly 30 percent of China’s energy use and are responsible for about a quarter of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the latest assessment on China’s energy development. The report, the 2007 China Energy Blue Book, concludes that inefficient buildings and homes waste a tremendous amount of energy each year.

The report notes that nearly 95 percent of existing buildings in China are energy intensive, while more than 80 percent of new buildings built each year—covering some 2 billion square meters in area—fail to meet efficiency rules. China typically spends two or three times as much energy per unit of building area as most industrialized countries.

In 2005, energy required for heating, cooling, ventilating, and lighting China’s 40 billion square meters of buildings accounted for nearly a third of the nation’s total energy consumption, up from roughly 10 percent in the 1970s. Heating and cooling systems alone use nearly 55 percent of this total. As much as 30 percent of the heat generated from conventional heating systems is lost directly, while another 7 percent leaks out through windows opened by residents who are unable to control room temperatures themselves.

Most Chinese buildings are also water inefficient, with sanitary facilities requiring 30 percent more water than those in industrialized countries. Each year, some 20 percent of the water carried via municipal supply networks is lost to leaks, representing almost 10 billion cubic meters of wasted tap water each year, or more than is currently targeted for delivery under China’s massive new south-to-north water transfer project [1].

Office buildings in China use 10 times as much energy as most residential buildings. Government buildings, in particular, waste significant amounts of energy in the absence of consistent government standards on energy use, the report says. Electricity consumed by Chinese government departments and agencies accounts for 5 percent of the nation’s total use.

The report suggests that some 135 million tons of standard coal could be saved each year if all existing and new buildings in China were renovated or designed to meet 50-percent energy savings standards.

Jianqiang Liu is a senior investigative journalist with China Southern Weekend and a visiting scholar at Peking University. Outside contributions to China Watch reflect the views of the author and are not necessarily the views of the Worldwatch Institute.

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