As China’s rapid urbanization continues and urban dwellers become more affluent, energy use in buildings is expected to grow. To understand how this growth can be slowed, we explore four scenarios for Chinese buildings, ranging from a high-energy-demand scenario with no new energy policies to lowest energy demand under a techno-economic-potential scenario that assumes full deployment of cost-effective efficient and renewable technologies by 2050. We show that, in the high energy demand scenario, building energy demand has an average annual growth rate of about 2.8%, with slower growth rates in the other three scenarios. In all scenarios, CO2 emissions grow slower than energy, with building CO2 peaking around 2045 in the high energy demand scenario, and as early as 2030 in the techno-economic-potential scenario. We show that although various technological solutions, systems and practices can be very effective in minimizing building energy use, rigorous policies are needed to overcome multiple implementation barriers.
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $5.17 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
The data that support the plots within this paper and other findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.
The Road from Paris—China’s Progress Toward Its Climate Pledge (NRDC, 2016).
Harvey, L. D. D. Reducing energy use in the buildings sector: measures, costs, and examples. Energy Efficiency 2, 139–163 (2009).
China’s Contribution to the Paris Climate Agreement (C2ES, 2015).
Tsinghua University Building Energy Research Center. Annual Report on China Building Energy Efficiency (China Construction Industry Publishing House, 2015).
Buildings Energy Data Book: 2.2 Residential Sector Characteristics (US DOE, 2012).
EU Buildings Database (European Union, 2017); http://ec.europa.eu/energy/en/eu-buildings-database
The Institute of Energy Economics. EDMC Handbook of Energy & Economic Statistics in Japan (The Energy Conservation Center, Tokyo, 2014).
National Data (National Bureau of Statistics of China, 2018); http://data.stats.gov.cn/english
Zhang, Y. F., Wang, J. Y., Chen, H. M., Zhang, J. & Meng, Q. L. Thermal comfort in naturally ventilated buildings in hot-humid area of China. Build. Environ. 45, 2562–2570 (2010).
Zheng, X. Y. et al. Characteristics of residential energy consumption in China: findings from a household survey. Energy Policy 75, 126–135 (2014).
Chen, S. Q., Yoshino, H. & Li, N. Statistical analyses on summer energy consumption characteristics of residential buildings in some cities of China. Energ. Buildings 42, 136–146 (2010).
Bressand, F., Zhou, N. & Lin, J. in Proc. ECEEE 2007 Summer Study (eds S. Attali & K. Tillerson) 1065–1071 (ECEEE, 2007).
Eom, J., Clarke, L., Kim, S. H., Kyle, P. & Patel, P. L. China’s building energy demand: long-term implications from a detailed assessment. Energy 46, 405–419 (2012).
Chen, J. M. et al. A review of biomass burning: emissions and impacts on air quality, health and climate in China. Sci. Total Environ. 579, 1000–1034 (2017).
Yao, C. S., Chen, C. Y. & Li, M. Analysis of rural residential energy consumption and corresponding carbon emissions in China. Energy Policy 41, 445–450 (2012).
International Energy Agency. World Energy Outlook 2016 (OECD Statistics, 2016).
International Energy Outlook 2016 (US EIA, 2016).
Qi, T., Winchester, N., Karplus, V. J., Zhang, D. & Zhang, X. An analysis of China’s climate policy using the China-in-Global Energy Model. Econ. Model. 52, 650–660 (2016).
Shi, J., Chen, W. & Yin, X. Modelling building’s decarbonization with application of China TIMES model. Appl. Energy 162, 1303–1312 (2016).
Tan, X., Lai, H., Gu, B., Zeng, Y. & Li, H. Carbon emission and abatement potential outlook in China’s building sector through 2050. Energy Policy 118, 429–439 (2018).
Yang, T. et al. CO2 emissions in China’s building sector through 2050: a scenario analysis based on a bottom-up model. Energy 128, 208–223 (2017).
Kim, Y. M., Kim, S. Y., Shin, S. W. & Sohn, J. Y. Contribution of natural ventilation in a double skin envelope to heating load reduction in winter. Build. Environ. 44, 2236–2244 (2009).
Mohsen, M. S. & Akash, B. A. Some prospects of energy savings in buildings. Energ. Convers. Manage. 42, 1307–1315 (2001).
Sadineni, S. B., Madala, S. & Boehm, R. F. Passive building energy savings: a review of building envelope components. Renew. Sust. Ener. Rev. 15, 3617–3631 (2011).
Sozer, H. Improving energy efficiency through the design of the building envelope. Build. Environ. 45, 2581–2593 (2010).
Hill, D. The Rocky Mountain Institute’s New HQ Has No Central Heat (2016); http://www.architectmagazine.com/technology/the-rocky-mountain-institutes-new-hq-has-no-central-heat_o
Tian, Z. et al. Investigations of nearly (net) zero energy residential buildings in Beijing. Procedia Eng. 121, 1051–1057 (2015).
Yu, Z., Li, H., Wu, J. & Xu, W. Design and operation of CABR nearly zero energy building. in Smart Net Zero Resilient Build. Commun. CZEBS-iiSBE-APEC Net Zero Built Environ. 2015 Symp. (2015); users.encs.concordia.ca/home/g/gparnis/CZEBS-iiSBE-APEC%20Symposium/Presentations/1.1_Z.YU.pdf
Saidur, R., Hasanuzzaman, M., Mahlia, T. M. I., Rahim, N. A & Mohammed, H. A. Chillers energy consumption, energy savings and emission analysis in an institutional buildings. Energy 36, 5233–5238 2011).
Greenberg, S., Mills, E., Tschudi, B., Rumsey, P. & Myatt, B. Best practices for data centers: Lessons learned from benchmarking 22 data centers. in Proc. ACEEE Summer Study Energy Efficiency Build. 3, 76–87 (ACEEE, 2006).
Konstantoglou, M. & Tsangrassoulis, A. Dynamic operation of daylighting and shading systems: a literature review. Renew. Sust. Ener. Rev. 60, 268–283 (2016).
Eltaweel, A. & Su, Y. H. Parametric design and daylighting: a literature review. Renew. Sust. Ener. Rev. 73, 1086–1103 (2017).
Achievements of Appliance Energy Efficiency Standards and Labelling Programs: A Global Assessment (OECD/IEA, 2015).
Korea’s Energy Standards and Labelling Market Transformation: Performance Improvements During the First 19 Years and a Vision for the Future (MKE & KEMCO, 2011).
Zhao, J., Zhu, N. & Wu, Y. Technology line and case analysis of heat metering and energy efficiency retrofit of existing residential buildings in northern heating areas of China. Energy Policy 37, 2106–2112 (2009).
Kong, X. F., Lu, S. L. & Wu, Y. A review of building energy efficiency in China during ‘Eleventh Five-Year Plan’ period. Energy Policy 41, 624–635 (2012).
Omer, A. M. Ground-source heat pumps systems and applications. Renew. Sust. Ener. Rev. 12, 344–371 (2008).
Hepbasli, A. & Kalinci, Y. A review of heat pump water heating systems. Renew. Sust. Ener. Rev. 13, 1211–1229 (2009).
Zhou, N. et al. China’s energy and emissions outlook to 2050: perspectives from bottom-up energy end-use model. Energy Policy 53, 51–62 (2013).
Bellevrat, E. Which Decarbonisation Pathway for China? Insights from Recent Energy-Emissions Scenarios Working Paper 18/12 (IDDRI, 2012).
Li, H. & Qi, Y. Comparison of China’s carbon emission scenarios in 2050. Adv. Clim. Change Res. 2, 193–202 (2011).
China 2050 High Renewable Energy Penetration Scenario and Roadmap Study: Executive Summary (Energy Research Institute of the National Development and Reform Commission, 2015).
Gu, C. L., Guan, W. H. & Liu, H. L. Chinese urbanization 2050: SD modeling and process simulation. Sci. China Earth Sci. 60, 1067–1082 (2017).
Khanna, N. Z., Zhou, N., Fridley, D. & Ke, J. Quantifying the potential impacts of China’s power-sector policies on coal input and CO2 emissions through 2050: a bottom-up perspective. Util. Policy 41, 128–138 (2016).
Ji, Y. B., Zhu, F. D., Li, H. X. & Al-Hussein, M. Construction industrialization in China: current profile and the prediction. Appl. Sci 7, 180 (2017).
Hong, L. X. et al. Building stock dynamics and its impacts on materials and energy demand in China. Energy Policy 94, 47–55 (2016).
Brambley, M. R. & Katipamula, S. Beyond Commissioning: The Role of Automation. Report PNNL-14990 (PNNL, 2005).
Mills, E. & Mathew, P. A. Monitoring Based Commissioning: Benchmarking Analysis of 24 UC/CSU/IOU Projects. Report LBNL-1972E (LBNL, 2009).
Mills, E. Building commissioning: a golden opportunity for reducing energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Energy Efficiency 4, 145–173 (2011).
Hamilton, S. D., Roth, K. W. & Brodrick, J. Improved duct sealing. ASHRAE J. 45, 64–65 (2003).
Conant, A., Modera, M., Pira, J., Proctor, J. & Gebbie, M. Comprehensive Diagnostic and Improvement Tools for HVAC-System Installations in Light Commercial Buildings (Proctor Engineering Group, 2004).
Roth, K. W., Westphalen, D., Feng, M. Y., Llana, P. & Quartararo, L. Energy Impact of Commercial Building Controls and Performance Diagnostics: Market Characterization, Energy Impact of Building Faults and Energy Savings Potential D0180 (TIAX, 2005).
Frey, D. & Smith, V. Advanced Automated HVAC Fault Detection and Diagnostics Commercialization Program CEC‐500‐2013‐054 (Architectural Energy Corporation, 2008).
Jacobs, P. Small HVAC Problems and Potential Savings Reports CEC 500-03-082-A-25 (Architectural Energy Corporation, 2003).
Goetzler, W., Zogg, R., Young, J. & Schmidt, J. Energy Savings Potential and Research, Development, & Demonstration Opportunities for Residential Building Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning Systems DOE/EE-0850 6121 (Navigant Consulting, 2012).
Tong, Z. M., Chen, Y. J., Malkawi, A., Liu, Z. & Freeman, R. B. Energy saving potential of natural ventilation in China: the impact of ambient air pollution. Appl. Energy 179, 660–668 (2016).
Gratia, E., Bruyere, I. & De Herde, A. How to use natural ventilation to cool narrow office buildings. Build. Environ. 39, 1157–1170 (2004).
Cardinale, N., Micucci, M. & Ruggiero, F. Analysis of energy saving using natural ventilation in a traditional Italian building. Energ. Buildings 35, 153–159 (2003).
Kolokotroni, M. & Aronis, A. Cooling-energy reduction in air-conditioned offices by using night ventilation. Appl. Energy 63, 241–253 (1999).
Lewis, J. I., Fridley, D. G., Price, L. K., Lu, H. & Romankiewicz, J. P. Understanding China’s non–fossil energy targets. Science 350, 1034–1036 (2015).
This work was supported by Energy Foundation through the US Department of Energy under contract no. DE-AC02-05CH11231.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Zhou, N., Khanna, N., Feng, W. et al. Scenarios of energy efficiency and CO2 emissions reduction potential in the buildings sector in China to year 2050. Nat Energy 3, 978–984 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41560-018-0253-6
Feasibility assessment of the carbon emissions peak in China's construction industry: Factor decomposition and peak forecast
Science of The Total Environment (2020)
Applied Energy (2020)
Journal of Cleaner Production (2020)
IET Power Electronics (2020)
Energetic, exergetic and exergoeconomic assessment of transcritical CO2 reversible system combined with dedicated mechanical subcooling (DMS) for residential heating and cooling
Energy Conversion and Management (2020)