Responding to climate change requires societies to rapidly transition from using sources of energy that emit high levels of greenhouse gases (GHG), to utilising solar photovoltaics, wind power, hydrogen, and other sources of low carbon energy.
Mainland China is crucial to energy transition globally. China is the largest emitter of GHG gases, and the energy sector makes up the majority of its national GHG emissions profile. For Australia China is also a key partner in trade and investment in the energy sector.
The Energy Transition Spoke of China in the World is a platform for ANU researchers working on policy issues related to energy transition, with a geographic focus on the Chinese mainland, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, or with collaborators from these locations. The Spoke is managed out of the Centre for Climate and Energy Policy (CCEP) at the Crawford School of Public Policy, and is open to membership by academic staff throughout the Australian National University.
Urban Environment and Human Ecology, Fenner School of Environment and Society
School of Regulation and Global Governance, College of Asia & the Pacific
Crawford School of Public Policy, College of Asia & the Pacific
Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific
ANU College of Law
Centre for Climate and Energy Policy, Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific
Crawford School of Public Policy, College of Asia & the Pacific
Centre for Climate and Energy Policy, Crawford School of Public Policy, College of Asia and the Pacific
Fenner School of Environment and Society, ANU College of Science
Fenner School of Environment and Society, College of Science
Crawford School of Public Policy, College of Asia and the Pacific
Spoke members are engaged in a wide range of activities and projects, financed by CIW and other sources. These include the following:
Assessing China’s demand for energy & resource imports
Project lead: Jorrit Gosens & Frank Jotzo
This project lead to the development of the open source [installation-level China coal model IL-CCM[(https://zenodo.org/record/6380913). This model of China’s coal sector has been used to assess developments in China’s demand for seaborne coal, including from Australia, as it decarbonizes its economy and aims to get more of its own coal to its power and steel plants. The model is currently being developed to include other importers in the APAC and globally, to analyse switching of coal suppliers, and added costs to China and reduced revenue for Australia, of China’s coal import embargo. Future plans are to expand the model to iron ore and steel scrap, to assess the trade implications of decarbonisation of the Chinese steel sector, with increased scrap use, or with Australian or Chinese hydrogen.
Offshore Wind Power in the Asia-Pacific Region
Project Lead: Llewelyn Hughes
Offshore wind power (OWP) has shown rapid capacity increases and declines in product costs globally. The potential for OWP is increasingly recognised in the Asia- Pacific region, with governments in Australia, Taiwan, the People’s Republic of China, Japan, South Korea, and Vietnam, establishing legal frameworks enabling the development of OWP projects. Developing wind resources in the offshore environment presents a unique set of challenges for renewable energy project developers, including but not limited to environmental and safety management, coordination with existing water access and use rights, and the management of stakeholder interests. There are also important questions regarding grid-management, the cost-competitiveness of OWP relative to other generation sources, and the employment and other economic dimensions of OWP development. This project seeks to understand the role of offshore wind in the decarbonisation strategies adopted major markets in the Asia-Pacific region, and identify the barriers to more rapid uptake of this key technology.
Australia-China links on low-carbon technology transitions & Australia-China ‘Decarbonisation roundtables’
Project lead: Frank Jotzo & Jorrit Gosens
This project facilitates bilateral dialogue and cooperation on low-carbon technology transitions between Australian and Chinese stakeholders in academia, industry, and government. It focuses on links between the Australian and Chinese economies, the potential for leveraging Australian natural resource endowments and opportunities for business. Focal topics for analysis and engagement under this project are 1) Steel supply chains and the transition to green steel, 2) Trade in (energy) resources, 2) Hydrogen production and systems, 4) Next-generation low-carbon technologies, and 5) Frameworks for innovation, investment and trade. This project provides a series of hybrid in-person and online workshops in Australian capital cities on these topics, called the ‘Australia-China Decarbonisation roundtables’, organized in collaboration with the Australia-China Business Council.
Unravelling the mechanisms underlying electric vehicle uptake in Shanghai
Project Lead: Yuan Peng
Chinese cities are moving to promote electric vehicle (EV) adoption to mitigate environmental problems. Shanghai has been a frontrunner in accelerating EV adoption, sharing roughly 4% of global EV stock. This research aims to understand the mechanisms underlying Shanghai’s early-adoption success by examining the roles of different actors in this socio-technical transformation. The project will investigate the case from multiple aspects, including the efficacy of policy incentives, the role of peer effects, and the influence of recharging infrastructure on EV adoption. The findings provide policy implications to cities in and out of China in supporting EV uptake. The research may advance conceptual frameworks supporting the socio-technical transition towards EVs.
Who drives and contributes to China’s emerging hydrogen economy? –the dynamics and interactions between cities and business actors
Project Lead: Yuan Peng
The emerging hydrogen economy has multiple benefits for both economy and environment. There is a global momentum of developing hydrogen technologies, driven by many economies in the world. Albeit with the absence of a national-level hydrogen scheme, cities and industries in China have been proactively enabling hydrogen R&D and adoption in recent years. Although the trend is observable, the stakeholders' motivations, strategies, and actions to participate and collaborate still remain unclear. This research aims to understand the dynamics and interactions of two critical players in this emerging field – cities and business sectors. The lessons and experiences shared by China’s case could be learned internationally. Theoretically, the expected findings would unravel the mechanisms that support partnerships in urban low-carbon governance and the drivers and approaches of such collaboration in sustainability transition.
China’s climate policy integration and sustainable development: Decarbonizing at the subnational level
Project lead: Hongzhang Xu
China has shown strong political will in peaking its carbon emissions before 2030 and achieving net-zero emissions before 2060. However, climate policy in both its mitigation and adaptation dimensions is firmly a cross-sectoral and whole-of-government activity. The speed and success of China’s decarbonization will depend not only on technology trends and national government commitments but also on the willingness and capability of local governments and regional leaders to integrate climate considerations into other policy sectors, especially socio-economic policies. This project aims to understand the major policy and institutional changes adopted by all mainland Chinese provincial governments (31 in total) from the start of China’s 11th Five-Year Plan period (i.e., 2006) to enable clean energy sources and facilitate transitions of energy production and consumption. By adopting an approach of in-depth document analysis, this project uncovers how each province plays their respective strength to initiate locally suitable and adaptive strategies and plans to decarbonize. Accordingly, the project contributes new data, theoretical tools, comprehensive analysis and policy implications for addressing the challenges associated with how climate change could be mainstreamed in political agenda and facilitate sustainable development.
Decarbonizing China’s steel sector: a review of progress and outlook
Project lead: Tuyu Zhou
China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of steel, by some distance. In 2021, the country produced a 1,033 Mt of crude steel, or about 60% of global production, almost all of it for domestic consumption. China’s economy is very steel-intensive, with the steel sector responsible for about 18% of China’s CO2 emissions, versus about 9% globally. Decarbonizing China’s steel sector is therefore a key component of China’s path to net-zero. This project will review current progress in decarbonization of China’s steel sector in terms of existing pilot and demonstration projects, policy options considered to stimulate the accelerated decarbonization, technical pathways and timelines considered, and views on international trade of green hydrogen, iron, or steel.
Understanding green investment principles for the Belt and Road
Project lead: Wenting Cheng
China’s Belt and Road Initiative has focused on investing infrastructure projects. The GDP of 126 BRI countries (except China) accounts for 23% of global GDP, as well as 28% of global carbon emission. Should the current carbon-intensive development mode continue, carbon emission from the BRI countries would surge dramatically in the next decade. In order to “ensure environmental friendliness, climate resilience, and social inclusiveness”, the Green Investment Principles for the Belt and Road (GIP) was initiated in November 2018. This project aims to understand the motivation, implementation and impacts of the GIP, specifically why over 30 global financial institutions are committed to this set of voluntary principles, how these principles has been implemented in the BRI projects, and its potential impacts on energy transition.
Who governs global energy?
Project Lead: Christian Downie
This project examines an enduring question in global energy governance: how can energy be governed at the global level? A fine-grained empirical comparison of the role of multiple international organizations will advance the theory and practice of global governance by understanding and explaining the different ways organizations, such as the G20, the International Energy Agency, and the International Renewable Energy Agency, among others, govern energy. In doing so, the project contributes new data, theoretical tools and policy proposals for addressing the challenges associated with a failing international energy system, including energy security, energy access and climate change.
Taiwan as a niche market in Asia-Pacific Offshore Wind
Project lead: Llewelyn Hughes
Collaborators: Anton Gao, The Institute of Law for Science and Technology (ILST), National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan
Offshore wind power is an emerging source of renewable energy in the Asia-Pacific region. Taiwan has played an important role as a lead-market for offshore wind power in the region by implementing policies that have drawn substantial investment into the region by multinational offshore wind power developers. This project seeks to understand the political conditions that led to the passing of policies supporting the development of a domestic offshore wind power industry in Taiwan, and the extent to which local content requirements have supported the development of an indigenous capability in offshore wind power technologies.
Shifts in global centres of energy innovation and manufacturing industries
Project Lead: Jorrit Gosens
Global energy systems are undergoing a transition towards renewables, with expanded deployment of currently fairly matured renewables, and ongoing development of a number of novel renewable energy technologies. Simultaneously, global economic activity is increasingly less concentrated in the traditional group of advanced economies, and shifting towards emerging and developing economies. Both in terms of economic growth, and in output of renewable energy equipment, a number of Asian economies, and in particular China, stand out. This raises the question whether continued growth in renewable energy will exacerbate the rise of these emerging economies, or whether the advanced economies will be able to capture and/or retain substantial leadership in these new growth industries. The initial project will look at shifts in knowledge bases, using a global database of patent statistics, and analyse whether emerging economies are managing to generate larger share of patents or citations in clean power generation and transport technologies, when compared to fossil alternatives. The aim is to expand this project beyond knowledge production in a later phase, and with collaborators.
Green steel and Australia-China resource trade
Project lead: Frank Jotzo and Howard Bamsey
Collaborators: Researchers at ANU and Tsinghua University
China is the largest steel producer, Australia is the largest producer of iron ore and traded metallurgical coal, and the Australia-China trade in raw materials for steel is the world’s largest such supply chain. Steel making accounts for a significant share of global greenhouse gas emissions. In a future low-emissions world economy, steel making would use different processes, possibly including ‘green steel’ that uses hydrogen or electricity to process iron ore. There is a possibility that Australia might become a producer and exporter of green steel or green iron, based on its inherent renewable energy advantage. Whether and in what form this could happen depends on relative costs of energy and different production processes in different locations, what weight is given to local pollution, to what extent there is a strategic or pragmatic preference for steel manufacturing to continue to be located in China, and other factors. This project combines engineering, economics and strategic perspectives in assessing futures for the steel industry and bilateral resource trade.
Mobilizing private climate finance for a just energy transition in Indonesia
Project lead: Abidah Setyowati and Neil Gunningham
This project seeks to address one of the world’s most pressing challenges: to rapidly transition to a low carbon global economy which requires massive investment beyond the capability of public resources alone. Using the case study in Indonesia, it aims to interrogate the central role of governance in steering and mobilising resources so that it could best support a just transition to low carbon energy. The data, analysis and theoretical frameworks generated will inform design principles and policy proposals to harness private climate resources to expedite an energy transition. The project considers foreign investment in power plants such as coal and renewables, including China’s investment in Indonesia.
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Cheng, W. (2022). Intellectual Property and International Clean Technology Diffusion: Pathways and Prospects. Asian Journal of International Law, 1-33.
Gosens, J., Turnbull, A. B., & Jotzo, F. (2022). China’s decarbonization and energy security plans will reduce seaborne coal imports: Results from an installation-level model. Joule, 6(4), 782-815.
Stocks, M., Fazeli, R., Hughes, L., & Beck, F. J. (2022). Global emissions implications from co-combusting ammonia in coal fired power stations: An analysis of the Japan-Australia supply chain. Journal of Cleaner Production, 336, 130092.
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Gilmanova, A., Wang, Z., Gosens, J., & Lilliestam, J. (2021). Building an internationally competitive concentrating solar power industry in China: lessons from wind power and photovoltaics. Energy Sources, Part B: Economics, Planning, and Policy, 16(6), 515-541.
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Zhang, Y., Bai, X., & Mills, F. P. (2020). Characterizing energy-related occupant behavior in residential buildings: Evidence from a survey in Beijing, China. Energy and Buildings, 214, 109823.
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Selected media mentions
ABC News (27/05/2022). Banned traders warn Labor government, all industries against reliance on China. Mercer, D.
Washington Post (23/04/2022). With coal surge, China puts energy security and growth before climate. Shepherd, C.
ABC News. (21/04/2022). Coalmining regions urged to diversify, with Chinese slowdown in coal consumption 'imminent'. Yang, S.
The Guardian (21/04/2022). Australia’s coal export boom forecast to end abruptly amid big drop in demand from China. Hannam, P.
The Canberra Times (21/04/2022). [China's demand for Australian coal will decline rapidly over the next few years](https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/7704684/australias-biggest-coal-m... republished on several outlets.). Crowe, A.
The Australian Financial Review (21/04/2022). End of Australia’s coal export boom to China is ‘imminent’. Greber, J.
The Sydney Morning Herald (21/04/2022). China to use more of its own coal, cutting Australian imports: analysis. O’Malley, N.
News.com.au (21/04/2022). ‘Imminent’ China move set to impact Australia’s coal exports. Foster, A.
Australian Associated Press (21/04/2022). Aussie coal phased out by China: report. Republished in several outlets including 7 News. Rae, M.
The Australian (21/04/2022). ‘Coal will be on the way down’: Aussie industry under threat. Druce, A.
South China Morning Post (21/04/2022). China’s coal imports seen shrinking by almost half as carbon, energy policies hurt producers in Indonesia and Australia, study shows. Xue Y.
China Dialogue (18/12/2020). Is China’s post-pandemic recovery off the green track?. Shi, Y.
Financial Times (23/09/2020). China’s carbon pledge revives hopes of a climate game change. Sheperd, C.
Nikkei Asia (23/06/2020). Asia risks missing 'green' economic reset after coronavirus. Regalado, F.
Time Magazine (15/05/2020). As the Rest of the World Plans a Green Recovery, America Is Once Again Falling Behind. Worland, D.
China Energy Portal—Free crowd-sourced English translations of Chinese energy policy and statistics