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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Sustainable Energy Supply In China: The Role Of Indicators And Targets

Arthur Sebert

Sustainable Energy Supply In China: The Role Of Indicators And Targets

Energy demand is growing very quickly in China as the country develops. At the same time, China faces issues related to environmental protection, climate change, security of supply and resource depletions that pushes them to develop their energy supply in a more sustainable way than previous developing countries did. To fulfil this challenge, the Chinese government sets national targets of sustainable energy supply that have an influence on the different actors' behaviour in this sector. This work is based on a three weeks field trip to China carried out in May 2010 to interview stakeholders from the energy supply sector and gather data. It first gives tools to assess targets, and presents a snapshot of indicators and targets used in sustainable enegy supply in China. Then a target‐setting mechanism used by the government is described, and tested on three case studies over the past decade: Wind power, Solar PV, and Solar Water Heating. Conclusions are drawn on the three sectors, showing that targets will still have a specific role to play in each of them in the near future, and that some lessons can be learnt from one to another. Comparing cases, the research shows that targets can have various effects depending on the industry studied, with regard to factors such as technology readiness, governmental control over the sector, or market structure. The Chinese government has a pragmatic approach when setting targets: it takes each sector separately and adjust targets and policies incrementally. A more integrated process would be more efficient to reach a higher level of sustainability in energy supply more quickly, but the size, the complexity, and the changing speed of the Chinese energy sector probably only allows such a process on a regional level.


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.