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Visualizing China’s Energy Transition in 5 Charts

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China Energy Mix

Visualizing China’s Energy Transition in 5 Charts

In September 2020, China’s President Xi Jinping announced the steps his nation would take to reach carbon neutrality by 2060 via videolink before the United Nations Assembly in New York.

This infographic takes a look at what this ambitious plan for China’s energy would look like and what efforts are underway towards this goal.

China’s Ambitious Plan

A carbon-neutral China requires changing the entire economy over the next 40 years, a change the IEA compares to the ambition of the reforms that industrialized the country’s economy in the first place.

China is the world’s largest consumer of electricity, well ahead of the second place consumer, the United States. Currently, 80% of China’s energy comes from fossil fuels, but this plan envisions only 14% coming from coal, oil, and natural gas in 2060.

Energy Source20252060% Change
Coal52%3%-94%
Oil18%8%-56%
Natural Gas10%3%-70%
Wind4%24%+500%
Nuclear3%19%+533%
Biomass2%5%+150%
Solar3%23%+667%
Hydro8%15%+88%

Source: Tsinghua University Institute of Energy, Environment and Economy; U.S. EIA

According to the Carbon Brief, China’s 14th five-year plan appears to enshrine Xi’s goal. This plan outlines a general and non specific list of projects for a new energy system. It includes the construction of eight large-scale clean energy centers, coastal nuclear power, electricity transmission routes, power system flexibility, oil-and-gas transportation, and storage capacity.

Progress Towards Renewables?

While the goal seems far off in the future, China is on a trajectory towards reducing the carbon emissions of its electricity grid with declining coal usage, increased nuclear, and increased solar power capacity.

According to ChinaPower, coal fueled the rise of China with the country using 144 million tonnes of oil equivalent “Mtoe” in 1965, peaking at 1,969 Mtoe in 2013. However, its share as part of the country’s total energy mix has been declining since the 1990s from ~77% to just under ~60%.

Another trend in China’s energy transition will be the greater consumption of energy as electricity. As China urbanized, its cities expanded creating greater demand for electricity in homes, businesses, and everyday life. This trend is set to continue and approach 40% of total energy consumed by 2030 up from ~5% in 1990.

Under the new plan, by 2060, China is set to have 42% of its energy coming from solar and nuclear while in 2025 it is only expected to be 6%. China has been adding nuclear and solar capacity and expects to add the equivalent of 20 new reactors by 2025 and enough solar power for 33 million homes (110GW).

Changing the energy mix away from fossil fuels, while ushering in a new economic model is no small task.

Up to the Task?

China is the world’s factory and has relatively young industrial infrastructure with fleets of coal plants, steel mills, and cement factories with plenty of life left.

However, China also is the biggest investor in low-carbon energy sources, has access to massive technological talent, and holds a strong central government to guide the transition.

The direction China takes will have the greatest impact on the health of the planet and provide guidance for other countries looking to change their energy mixes, for better or for worse.

The world is watching…even if it’s by videolink.

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Real Estate

China’s Real Estate Crisis, Shown in Two Charts

These charts show China’s real estate boom in the 21st century and the subsequent slowdown since 2022.

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Charts of China's real estate market slowdown.

Visualizing China’s Real Estate Boom and Crisis

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Evergrande—once China’s largest real estate developer—was forced to liquidate on January 28th. It was yet another strike against the country’s now fledgling real estate market, adding to a growing list of China’s economic worries.

In the charts above we show two annual metrics related to China’s real estate crisis from 2003 to 2023. The first looks at apartment and commercial property sales using Burreau of Statistics data from Bloomberg, and the second examines new housing starts using data from the World Bank.

Things to Know About China’s Property Slump

Property sales by value in China climbed pretty steadily from less than ¥1 trillion RMB in 2003 to over ¥15 trillion in 2021, but have since dropped to under ¥12 trillion in 2023.

This was the case across both residential and commercial sales. In China’s residential market specifically, new home sales dropped 6% in 2023, with secondhand home prices declining in major cities.

And on the development side, new residential developments have fallen 58% from 1,515 million m² in 2019 to 637 million m² in 2023.

YearNew Residential Building Developments
(million sq meters)
2023637.4
2022817.3
20211,350.2
20201,473.4
20191,514.5
20181,385.4
20171,160.9
20161,047.8
2015970.8
20141,146.4
20131,318.5
20121,199.1
20111,349.4
20101,147.2
2009784.9
2008695.4
2007662.3
2006531.8
2005446.5
2004390.0
2003352.4
2002276.5

Here are a few more things to know about the ongoing real estate crisis in China:

  • Developer Defaults: Real estate firms faced $125 billion in bond defaults between 2020 and 2023.
  • Economic Impact: The property sector’s slump has dragged down China’s economy, leading to layoffs and financial instability.
  • Getting Creative: Municipalities, many of which rely on land sales as a key source of income, have been introducing “old-for-new” support measures meant to stimulate new home purchases.

Experts predict a prolonged downturn, with many people souring on Chinese investments, but exactly how things will develop after Evergrande’s collapse is unclear.

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