The historical evolution and characteristics of China’s energy policy


Since 1949, the Chinese government has formulated a series of energy policies. The formulation of the policy has roughly gone through three stages: the planned economy period, the transition period of the economic system and the beginning of the new century.

(1) Analysis of traditional energy policy in planned economy period

In the planned economy period, insufficient energy supply was one of the main bottlenecks restricting China’s economic growth, and expanding the amount of energy supply was the focus of energy policy in this period. The energy distribution system mainly serves the industrial sector. In 1978, the “Decision of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on Several Issues Concerning Accelerating Industrial Development” proposed that the development of fuel, power, raw material industries and transportation should be placed in a prominent position. Since energy prices are set by default and the energy system is relatively inefficient, the energy policy at this stage has a strong administrative decree color, and there are many policy notices and measures, but it is also because of its industrial system that integrates government and enterprise, the management is simple, and the implementation of the decree is relatively efficient.

(2) Analysis of traditional energy policy during the transition period of economic system

From 1981 to 1990, expanding energy production and increasing energy supply was still the starting point of China’s energy policy. Since 1980, the government has put energy efficiency and energy conservation work on the agenda, and determined the energy development policy of “adhering to both development and conservation, and putting conservation in the first place”. In 1988, China changed the energy conservation plan in the five-year plan to a voluntary conservation and comprehensive utilization plan. During this period, the energy-saving policies and measures formulated by the government were mainly aimed at the industrial sector. This is because more than 70% of China’s energy demand comes from industry, among which petrochemical, metallurgical and chemical industries are extremely wasteful of energy. At the same time, the government has also promulgated some new energy measures to encourage the common development of various economic sectors.

After the reform and opening up, China has developed large-scale coal-fired power generation. Due to the lack of corresponding environmental protection mechanisms, it has paid high environmental costs while economic development. During the “Eighth Five-Year Plan” period, the economic benefits of China’s energy industry have gradually improved and the implementation of energy policies has achieved remarkable results. From 1980 to 1995, China’s energy production doubled, ranking second in the world in power generation, fifth in oil production, and first in coal production. After 1994, the focus of energy policy shifted from focusing on development quantities to focusing on growth benefits. During the “Ninth Five-Year Plan” period, the focus of China’s energy policy has changed, and issues such as energy environment and energy efficiency have gradually received national attention.

In the 1990s, China successively promulgated important laws and regulations such as the “Energy Conservation Law”, “Administrative Measures for Energy Conservation of Key Energy-consuming Units”, and “Administrative Measures for Electricity Conservation”. The energy policy at this stage initially reflected the concept of sustainable development. In the development of traditional energy, China has put forward the slogan of “utilizing both domestic and foreign resources”, and large state-owned energy companies have begun to develop overseas energy resources, such as energy cooperation with the Middle East, Russia, Central Asia, Southeast Asia and other countries. In the process of energy development, attention has been paid to the sustainable utilization of resources, including how to use resources reasonably and reduce the adverse impact on the environment during the development process. After learning from the experience and lessons of “pollution first and then treatment” in the 1980s, the national environmental protection standards have become increasingly strict. Limiting and controlling the excessive use of energy not only ensures sustainable social and economic development, but also improves the efficiency of energy utilization.

(3) Analysis of the characteristics of traditional energy policies in the early new century

At the beginning of the new century, the basic content of China’s energy policy can be summarized as energy conservation priority, efficiency-oriented, diversified development, structural optimization, environmental protection, domestic and international mutually beneficial cooperation, and efforts to build a stable, economical and clean energy supply system. It can be seen that energy conservation and energy efficiency are at the top of China’s energy policy, and the government encourages the diversified development of the energy system.

Entering the new century, China’s comprehensive national strength has been further enhanced, and its demand for energy has also continued to expand. However, the rapid growth of China’s energy demand has put more and more pressure on the environment and resources. During this period, energy policy began to focus on environmental protection and energy conservation. In terms of energy supply, the Chinese government is striving to diversify energy supply and increase the acquisition of overseas assets to ensure energy supply security. Regarding the energy price system, the Ministry of Finance proposed to rationalize the prices of energy products and restrain low-cost energy consumption.

In the development of bioenergy, adhere to the principle of combining points and aspects and advancing as a whole, and combine near, medium and long-term goals, not only to promote basic research with good prospects, but also to promote the industrialization of projects with relatively mature technologies. At the same time, actively strengthen international exchanges and cooperation in the bioenergy industry, and introduce advanced technology, capital and experience through cooperation with developed countries in the bioenergy industry such as Europe and the United States, and develop and utilize global knowledge reserves and human resources, and actively participate in the formulation of international standards and international trade treaties for bioenergy products.