Electricity generation in China
China became the world’s largest generator of electricity in 2011. Coal and hydroelectricity are still the largest sources of the country’s electricity generation and installed capacity, although the country is moving to increase its ability to generate electricity from other sources such as nuclear and natural gas. China’s installed electricity-generating capacity was an estimated 1,260 gigawatts in 2014. This capacity over the past 30 years has increased at a considerable rate, enabling China’s production of electricity to increase at a rapid rate (see Figure 9.2 below).
Natural gas currently plays a minor role in overall electricity generation, accounting for only 43 GWs of installed capacity at the beginning of 2014. However, the Chinese Government plans to invest heavily in more power plants fueled by natural gas. Despite the traditionally cheaper use of coal as a source of fuel, improved gas generation techniques have made it cheaper to produce electricity through the use of natural gas. Using combined-cycle plant, gas fueled electricity generation is competitive compared with the use of coal, as long as reserves of natural gas are readily available and the necessary infrastructure to transmit natural gas over long distances is available. The ongoing construction of China’s natural gas transmission network should increasingly meet this demand. Compared with other countries such as the United States, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea, China’s use of natural gas to generate electricity is
Figure 9.2 Electricity generated (China, 1985 to 2014), terrawatt hours Source: BP (2015a, 2015b)
still relatively low (see Table 9.5), implying there is considerable scope for expanded use once reserves are developed and infrastructure built.