The article ‘Understanding China’s past and future energy demand: An exergy efficiency and decomposition analysis’ by Paul E. Brockway, Julia K. Steinberger, John R. Barrett, and Timothy J. Foxon (all of Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, UK) appeared in Applied Energy 155:892-903 in October 2015 and features a comparison of China’s energy use in 1971 and 2010. These Sankey diagrams were drawn up to show “the overall flow of exergy to end useful work, and the exergy losses that occur during the various conversion processes”.

China’s energy usage is roughly tenfold in 2010 compared to 40 years ago (37 Mtoe up to 355 Mtoe). Not sure whether both diagrams are setup on the same scale but judging from e.g. the black coal flow (140 Mtoe in 1971, 577 Mtoe in 2010) that is about 4 times wider, I would say they are.

Another interesting detail in these diagrams is that the authors have included food and feed as energy source. This is the first time I see this in a national energy flow map. Given that the energy content of this “fuel” is higher than both combustible renewables and renewables together, it seems justified to include it. The efficiency of turning food and feed energy into muscle work, however, is very low (approx. 3%).

I invite you to read the full article (open access) and to comment on the Sankey diagrams shown in Appendix B.

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