(November 12, 2007 Hong Kong) China is set to overtake the US as the world's largest energy user soon after 2010, according to the International Energy Agency, whose report this week concentrated on problems resulting from an expected doubling of energy demand in China and India by 2030. The IEA called for greater investment in renewables and nuclear power to ease pressure on scarce and ever more expensive commodities.
Coal accounts for about 70 per cent of China's power generation and 56 per cent of India's. But there are already signs that China and India are embarking on aggressive diversification plans that could go well beyond the IEA's expectations.
Beijing wants to turn renewable sources from an almost meaningless contribution to 15 per cent of the Chinese energy supply by 2020, while more than doubling nuclear generation capacity. Already back in 2005, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, India's former president, said the country needed to boost renewable energy from 5 per cent of power generation to 25 per cent by 2030.
The IEA forecast this week that renewable sources would represent 10 per cent of global energy usage by 2030. Much still depends on how quickly Asia translates political pledges into legislative reality.
China and India are not alone in pushing for greater use of renewable energy. Indonesia, another leading coal producer, announced this week that it was looking into a new integrated food and fuel policy, in part to reap more benefits from its growing palm oil sector.
Singapore has earmarked S$350m ($243m, £á166m, £115m) over five years to develop sectors such as solar power and biofuels. Thailand recently adopted a tariff system to encourage renewable production, while the Philippines this year introduced legislation forcing oil companies to include a small percentage of biodiesel and bioethanol in output.
A Shandong biomass plant under construction is majority-owned by CLP, Hong Kong's largest power company. CLP is also investing in Chinese wind power, joining General Electric of the US, Gamesa of Spain, Vestas of Denmark and Sulzon of India.