Problems Concerning The Utilization Of Agricultural Renewable Energy In China

China is a great country with a large agrarian population and significant power to produce agricultural products, which has grown with China's economic expansion in the 1980s. China does not only produce large quantities of agricultural products to meet the needs of its domestic market, but also exports significant quantities of agricultural products. During the period from 1991 to 2000, comparing the first five years and the second five years, the output of agricultural products in China, such as grains, oil plants, sugar plants, fruits, meat, and aquatic products, grew respectively by 10.48%, 31.26%, 8.40%, 80.28%, 36.41%, and 104.42%. The number of pigs and sheep bred for slaughter also grew respectively by 23.11% and 15.97%,6 which indicates that throughout this decade, the production of agricultural products in China maintained a trend of steady growth.

As the output of agricultural products grew considerably, the output of organic wastes used directly or used after treatment as "energy" substances or "resource" substances, such as straw, animal excrement, residues of crops after treatment, also grew significantly. China has abundant biomass resources, for example, the annual output of animal excrement is about 2 billion tonnes, and the output of crop straws and other agricultural wastes also reaches 0.7 billion tonnes.7 Using units of standard coal as the basis for calculation, the resource content of agricultural wastes such as crop straw, is the equivalent of approximately 0.31 billion tonnes of standard coal and firewood resources are the equivalent of approximately 0.13 billion tonnes of standard coal.8 The annual resource content of both agricultural wastes and firewood totals 0.44 billion tonnes of standard coal, equal to more than one-third of China's average annual output (approximately 1.25 billion tonnes of standard coal9) of raw coal, crude oil, natural gas, water, and electricity as at the end of the 1990s (1996-1999). This demonstrates the abundance of China's agricultural renewable resources and the potential significance of agricultural renewable energy in China's energy production.

6 Online National Bureau of Statistics of China, "Result of calculation in accordance with the annual agricultural statistical data (1991-2000)," see http://www.stats.gov.cn/tjsj/ndsj/index.htm.

7 Xiao Yang, "Development and Utilization Status of China's Renewable Energy and Resources" (2001) 1 Rural Energy 29.

8 Chen Jiabin, "Research on Foreground for Renewable Energy as an Industry in our Country" (2003) 3 Renewable Energy 10-12.

9 Zhan Hua and Yao Shihong, "Some Speculation about General Status of Energy and Development in China" (2003) 3 Energy Engineering 1-4.

Currently, approximately eighty percent of China's population still lives in rural areas. The annual energy consumption of rural populations in China is the equivalent of more than 0.6 billion tonnes of standard coal, most of which is sourced from biomass energy substances, such as trees, firewood, and straw.10 In geographically remote rural areas, with underdeveloped economies that also lack mineral energy resources, energy for daily household and farm activities is mostly generated through directly burning straw (as occurs frequently in rural areas), cropping off or digging up trees and burning firewood (for instance, as occurs in remote mountainous areas), or even through burning animal excrement (such as in pasturing areas). China is the world's largest consumer of biomass energy and the volume of biomass energy consumed each year accounts for approximately twenty percent of total annual global consumption.11 The utilization of agricultural renewable energy is influenced by levels of economic development, levels of technical knowledge, development and expertise, traditions, and the persistence of outdated approaches to energy consumption. Accordingly, there are still problems that require attention particularly in terms of the utilization of agricultural renewable energy in China.

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