In 2003, China’s end-use energy demand totaled 60 QBTUs or 14 percent of global total—making the country the world's second-largest energy consumer after the United States. Because of the high share of CO2-intensive coal in the Chinese fuel mix, China contributed a higher proportion—17 percent—to the world's CO2 emissions. Measured by energy consumption per capita, the country consumes only a fraction of the energy that developed economies do. Yet the gap will narrow in the years ahead as industrialization continues and wealthier consumers aspire to the same level of comfort and convenience already enjoyed by households in developed economies. The choices China makes on energy productivity—the level of output its economy can achieve from the energy it consumes—are critical.
By taking advantage only of currently existing technologies that pay for themselves, China could further its ongoing efforts and reduce total energy demand in 2020 by as much as 23 percent. Lower energy demand would also mean that China could cut its projected oil imports by up to 15 percent and its CO2 emissions by at least 20 percent by 2020—while also helping reduce other environmental costs.