Electrification to drive nation's net-zero goals

By Zheng Xin (China Daily) 13:45, November 28, 2023

An employee works at a plant of China Baowu Steel Group in Maanshan, Anhui province. [LUO JISHENG/FOR CHINA DAILY]

Electrification will play a key role in China's decarbonization, especially in sectors such as steel, building and transportation, experts said.

China's electrification drive has progressed steadily over the past few years, alongside the rapid decarbonization of its power supply.

It is an important strategy for the country to reach its carbon neutrality goals by significantly curbing and reducing final energy consumption through higher efficiencies in many areas, said Gong Jicheng, a researcher at the College of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at Peking University.

Gong made the remarks during the release of the Synergetic Roadmap of Carbon Neutrality and Clean Air for China 2023, jointly held in Beijing by Tsinghua University, the Chinese Academy of Environmental Planning, Peking University, the Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, the Energy Foundation, and the China Clean Air Policy Partnership.

Electrification means replacing technologies or processes that use fossil fuels, like internal combustion engines and gas boilers, with electrically powered equivalents, such as electric vehicle engines or heat pumps.

These replacements are typically more efficient, reducing energy demand, and have a growing impact on emissions as electricity generation is decarbonized, the International Energy Agency said.

In the transportation sector for example, China has pioneered the development and promotion of electric vehicles, whose growing adoption and expansion have contributed substantially to a cleaner and more sustainable transportation system, Gong said.

Electrification in the steel sector, like the deployment of the electric arc furnace, which heats material by means of an electric arc, can also significantly enhance the energy efficiency of the steel industry, and reduce emissions of major air pollutants, such as nitrogen dioxide, by more than 80 percent by 2060.

According to the China Electricity Council, the proportion of electricity in China's final energy consumption is expected to exceed 30 percent by 2025 from the current 27 percent, which is already higher than the world average.

The electrification rate in the industrial and building sectors is currently 26.2 and 44.9 percent, respectively, in China. While the figure is only 3.9 percent in the transportation sector, the country is moving ahead with transportation electrification, with about 5.2 million charging infrastructure units established during the past few years, creating the world's largest charging network, the CEC said.

Yang Kun, executive vice-chairman of the CEC, said China will vigorously promote the replacement of coal and oil with electricity in various sectors, including industry, transportation, construction and agriculture.

The journey of electrification has not been without its challenges.

Transitioning away from fossil fuels requires technological breakthroughs, investment as well as government planning, said Luo Zuoxian, head of intelligence and research at the Sinopec Economics and Development Research Institute.

"With significant potential to mitigate emissions and decarbonize energy supply chains, electrification is, and will be, an important strategy to help reach net-zero goals in China.

"As electrification is applied in more energy end uses, the share of electricity in total final energy consumption will witness a substantial increase by 2030."

Electricity generation needs to shift to renewable resources, while the power grids also need to expand their capacity and flexibility to accommodate the growing demand for electricity, Luo added.

(Web editor: Tian Yi, Wu Chaolan)


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