This week’s SnapChart plots the relationship between Chinese total energy demand and population. The Country started a rapid rise in consumption in 2004, growing threefold since then at near constant population. The number of people in China is clearly not driving energy consumption, instead economic growth is the principle driver.
Over the past twenty years, China has been transformed from an agrarian economy to an urbanized, industrialized country. As people moved to the cities, the country’s industrial output, productivity, wealth and energy demand all increased. This trend has not finished. Today 40 percent of the population still lives in the country side, because of this the United Nations predicts that the cities will continue to grow for another 20 years.
This ongoing urbanization trend supports continued growth from the Chinese economy, however the pace of expansion is slowing. Between 2004 and 2014 the economy grew by 10 percent on average. Over the past few years the pace has slowed closer to 6 percent. The double digit growth rates are not expected to return because the economy is maturing and the economic base now much larger than it was a decade ago. Even so, China remains highly consequential to energy demand, making up one-third of all global growth.
To learn more about China’s energy outlook, hear our podcast titled World Energy: Still Made in China?