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Energy environment and agriculture in China

I. The energy pattern of China
II. Environmental issues
III. The relationship between NRSE and agricultural and economic development.

Hu Chengchun

(The Science and Technology Committee, Beijing)

Paper No.9411

The positive balance between energy, environment and agriculture (EEA) is a key element for promoting the development of the national economy as well as the living standard of less developed areas in China. The successful model of that practice could be, to some extent, a worthwhile referential example for other developing countries. This paper relates to the topic which is based on the accumulation of the experience of my professional career in the field of new and renewable and rural energy for many years and the implementation of the Nairobi Program of Action since 1981.

I. The energy pattern of China

China is a populous and opening country. Her energy output in 1992 is shown in Table 1. The framework of the energy pattern can be concluded as:

Table 1 China's Energy Output in 1992



Natural Gas









141, 8




Coal production represents 70% of total output of energy. Coal consumption is 30% for power generation, 40 % for industrial use, 10% for coke production, and the other 20% for domestic fuels and transportation use. In rural areas, people have been suffering from conventional energy shortage and traditionally consume biomass for meeting domestic energy needs. Non-commercial energy consumption holds one third of China's total energy consumption. The structure of China's rural energy consumption is shown in Table 2.

80% of China's population is distributed in rural areas. At present, the rural birth rate is higher than urban one. In spite of the birth rate being reduced from 2.6% to 1.4% as a result of the implementation of the family planning policy, the present need feed her people who make up 22% of the world population but can only rely on 7% of world arable land, seems to be a tough task.

Table 2 The Composition of China's Rural Energy in 1992, Mtce

Rural energy consumption for livelihood


in which: Stalks










Rural energy consumption for production


in which: coal














Based on the conditions mentioned above, food and energy supply are the essential problems which have to be coped with. In China, 1 20 million people live in rural and remote areas without access to the national grid. A few of these enjoy electric power supplied by mini-hydro. However, until now, 90% of hydropower resources still has not been exploited.

II. Environmental issues

As already mentioned, China's major energy supply relies on coal production with an annual output of 1.1 billion tones (1993). It releases plenty of CO, Despite the fact that the CO2 emission per capita in China is only 1/10 that of the United States, however, its absolute volume causes serious local environmental problems, such as acid rain,

Over the last 50 years, about one thousand square kilometers of cultivating land has been swallowed by expanding of desert. The forest coverage rate only stands at 13 %, lower than the world average rate of 22%, due to overcutting for fuels. Beside the Yellow River which has saturated sand content, now clean rivers, such as the Yantz River, and the Yue Jiang River, have become yellow as industrially polluted liquids have been poured into them. The statistics for environmental pollution are reported in Table 3.

Table 3 China's Environmental Pollution Data in 1992

1. Air pollution


Ashes release

14.14 Mt

SO2 emission

16.85 Mt

2. Water pollution


Industrial waste water discharge

23390 Mt

3. Solid wastes


Industrial solid waste

620 Mt

* does not include discharges from rural township industry

III. The relationship between NRSE and agricultural and economic development.

Twenty years ago, our cherished Premier Zhou Enlai was greatly concerned with the development of NRSE. After the UN New and Renewable Energy Conference, 1981, Nairobi, the Chinese Government formulated a practical National Program Action for the Development of NRSE and enhanced international cooperation in this field. A few NRSE demonstration projects were completed in the last ten years. The experiences we have gained from these practices are summarized as follows.

1. In the early 1 980s, the Chinese Government drew up a strategic policy for NRSE development which stated as "integrated development and efficient use of diversified energy sources for complementary and practice aims with local conditions and economic and environment taken into full account". Under the guidelines of this policy, the State arranged enough founds for NRSE research and development in Six, Seven and Eight Five Year Plans for Science and Technology Development and Advancement. Along with the development of the social market economy under the general policy of economic system reform and opening up to the outside world, the NRSE industries have been established. NRSE products are now available on China's domestic market.

2. The dissemination of NRSE technology application in rural areas is promoted due to the Government support, for example, for the preferential policy for NRSE products. The Ministry of Agriculture put rural energy and environment planning in a significant position and set up nationwide rural energy technology service networks for popularization of biogas digesters and efficient stoves as well as plantations of fast growing fuelwoods at the beginning of the stage.

3. To formulate the NRSE development program, including the provision of financial support to the isolated, less developed rural/remote areas to equip with standalone small wind and solar PV power systems for improving the people's living standards and cultural life. For example, some geothermal power station and geothermal heated greenhouse were set up in Tibet and resulted in economic benefits. In the sunny Northwest areas of China, such as Gansu, Qinhai, Xinjiang, solar water heaters and passive solar houses are widely disseminated. In coastal regions, some tidal power stations and wind farms were built for demonstration purposes. According to statistics made in 1993, the scale of NRSE utilization is shown in Table 4.

4. NRSE products have a broad market in rural China because, on the one hand, they are urgently needed, and on the other hand, they are available at low affordable costs for bread boxes, solar water heaters, small standalone wind mills, biogas cooking equipment and efficient stoves. Besides, the technology service networks also are of great help in disseminating NRSE.

5. Successful international cooperation provides training and demonstration of advanced foreign technologies.

6. At present, in China, NRSE development mainly concentrates on rural areas with major emphasis on modern biomass technology development, including efficient using of agricultural wastes, development of energy farms, in line with food supply and sustainable economic development. For example, the demonstration project of alcohol production using sweet sorghum stalks is successfully carried at the Shenyang Agricultural University and gets the comprehensive benefits of obtaining grains, feeds, fodder, fuels and building materials in the same pieces of land. The EEA positive circulation pattern will also become an ideal sustainable development solution in the world.

7. China has made some technical options for NRSE development and EEA model pilot study, see Fig. 1 to Fig.3 . However, initially, it needs some support of preferential policy as well as government input and international assistance. The EAA practice is not only beneficial to China's rural economic development but also to other developing countries.

Table 4. The Scale of China's NRSE Development in 1993 accumulated data

1. Solar water heaters

2,500,000 m2

2. Solar cookers

140, 000 units

3. Passive solar houses

1,200,000 m2

4. Solar greenhouses

400,000 ha

5. Solar dryers

130,000 m2

6. Solar cells

2.5 MW

7. Stand alone wind mills

13 MW

8. Wind farms

5 MW

9. Wind pumps

2.5 MW

10. Domestic biogas digesters

1154.8 Mm3

11. Large size biogas engineering

55 Mm3 gas/year

12. Biomass gasifiers

400 Units

13. Tidal power

13 MW

14. Geothermal power

27 MW

15. Low temperature direct use geothermal energy

89500 MW

16. Mini-hydro power

20030 MW

Fig. 1 Alcohol production using sweet sorghum

Fig. 2 Transform land degradation scheme

Fig. 3 The project in Fushan Farm 1

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