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Shift in a national virtual energy network

Xu, Zhenci, Zhang, Di, McCord, Paul, Gong, Mimi, Liu, Jianguo
Applied energy 2019 v.242 pp. 561-569
economic crises, electricity, energy resources, energy transfer, humans, oils, socioeconomic development, trade, China
Energy is one of the most fundamental resources for humans and nature. Virtual energy transfer is considered one potential mechanism to alleviate energy shortages and support socioeconomic development in energy-scarce regions. However, little research has explored the change in flow pattern of national virtual energy trade since the 2008 global financial crisis. To fill this knowledge gap, we choose China’s interprovincial virtual energy transfer network as a demonstration, since China is the world's biggest energy consumer and features a starkly uneven spatial distribution of energy resources. Surprisingly, the total virtual energy transferred from energy-scarce to energy-abundant provinces increased from 43.2% to 47.5% from 2007 to 2012. In particular, the virtual oil which transferred from energy-scarce to energy-abundant provinces grew from 51.5% in 2007 to 54.0% in 2012. The percentage of provinces that transferred a greater amount of total virtual energy than was consumed internally increased from 23.3% in 2007 to 36.7% in 2012. Unexpectedly, the total virtual energy flowing from west China to east China was much greater than physical energy transferred through the West-To-East Electricity Transmission Project (WTEETP). This study suggests that it would be interesting to study patterns of interactions of virtual energy networks in other countries.