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Irina Slav

Irina Slav

Irina is a writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.

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China Is The World’s Biggest Energy Market Mover

China is the biggest importer of crude oil to date. It is also the biggest single investor in renewable energy. However you look at it, China has become the most dominant player on several markets, including coal, oil, and renewable energy, plus electric cars—it is already the biggest car market in the world. And this will continue to be so, it seems, for the foreseeable future and even beyond.

In an overview of Chinese energy developments for Bloomberg Businessweek, analyst Liam Denning calls China an energy gorilla that will maintain its size until at least 2040, consuming less fossil fuels and investing more in renewable energy. That’s pretty much what IEA said in its latest World Energy Outlook, and it probably didn’t surprise anyone. China has been swinging markets for a while now.

Earlier this year, for example, when Beijing announced a firm plan to phase out internal combustion engines over a couple of decades, the stocks of electric car makers, notably Tesla, went through the roof. What followed was a string of announcements from major carmakers.

Volkswagen said it would splash US$11.8 billion on EV development in China, which will include the production and sale of 40 EV models. Toyota has plans to enter China’s EV market as well, together with its current JV partners, FAW Group Corp and Guangzhou Automobile Group. On top of that, Tesla may become the first foreign company allowed by Beijing to make cars on its territory and sell them there without a joint venture partner. And that’s just in EVs.

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In the years to 2040, China will invest more than US$60 billion annually in wind and solar energy capacity. It will also invest US$40 billion annually in natural gas and US$20 billion in hydropower. To compare, investments in crude oil over the period to 2040, according to the IEA, will average about US$30 billion annually.

Overall, investments in energy supply in the period will hit US$6.4 trillion. Separately, investments in renewables, EVs, and energy efficiency will average US$220 billion annually.

What does this mean for the oil industry? It means China will be using less, but they’ll still be using a lot of crude oil in the next two decades. It will also be reshaping the global trends in energy consumption, the IEA said. The thing is that even though China is shifting away from heavy industry as the main driver of its economic growth and into services, its energy needs will continue to grow, by 790 million tons of oil equivalent until 2040, according to IEA.

Related: China’s Mysterious Arctic Silk Road

In the period until 2040, China, along with India, will be the primary reason for solar power becoming the dominant source of low-carbon energy. No wonder, since electricity demand in China will grow by 3,910 Twh until 2040, the highest growth globally. The U.S. is a distant second in that ranking, with electricity demand growing by just 684 Twh. The overall Chinese electricity demand will exceed 9,000 Twh by 2040. In the U.S., demand will be less than 5,000 Twh.

Leader in electricity consumption, leader in solar power and in future EV sales according to most observers, and leader in primary energy demand. That’s China. That’s a lot of market-swinging power there.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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