China, like Britian in the industrial era of the 1950s, has a serious urban air pollution problem, but like London then the solution partially lies in the adoption cleaner energy sources, something a UK energy consultant says China is already well on it way to achieving.
While China has the burden of booming mass motor vehicle ownership, both countries’s pollution problems were excerbated by the use of coal as a popular domestic fuel and power generation in urban areas.
The popular view used to be that Chinese leaders held the same view as their British counterparts in the 50s, namely that burning coal and lax environmental policies were necessary to maintain economic growth, said Johathan Land, head of consulting for power and utilities at Global Data, but “there are clear signs that attitudes and development have changed significantly.”
Beijing and other other Chinese cities, according to Lane, are transforming their energy consumption by converting urban coal-fired heating and electricity generating plants from coal to natural gas and increasing availablity of natural gas to urban consumers.
Since natural gas consumption produces fewer particulate emissions than either petrol or diesel fuel, air pollution could be reduced significantly.
“GlobalData estimates that at the end of 2011, there were 108 million domestic natural gas connections in China, showing an astonishing growth of 19 million over 2010,” said Lane. “Alongside the growth in domestic consumption will come growth in natural gas for urban electricity and heat generation, albeit more slowly. This, alongside China’s burgeoning solar PV market, will clear Beijing’s skies more quickly that many expect – and perhaps more quickly that London managed.”