Tracking a country’s electricity use can offer insight into industrial output, energy efficiency and the effectiveness of energy policies. For decades, China has been pursuing energy efficiency and demand side management policies to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign energy imports and increase its economic competitiveness; but many of these efforts are only now becoming apparent due to large-scale structural changes to the Chinese economy.
“For years, China had implemented successful policies to improve the efficiency of heavy industrial facilities, such as cement, steel, and aluminum plants, but rapid expansion of this heavy industrial capacity throughout the country was overshadowing gains in efficiency, meaning continued growth in overall energy consumption in these sectors,” said Max Dupuy, Senior Associate at the Regulatory Assistant Project, an organization that provides technical assistance and international expertise on energy efficiency and environmental policy.
Now, a slowdown in absolute economic growth is revealing impressive aggregate gains, as demonstrated by China’s electricity consumption figures for the first quarter of 2015: Overall electricity consumption grew only 0.8% year on year to 1.29 trillion kilowatt hours according to the National Bureau of Statistics. This represents a 4.6% drop from the same period the previous year.