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Estimation of the energy efficiency in Chinese provinces


China is one of the largest energy consumers and CO2 emitters globally. The growth rate of energy consumption in China is about 6 % per year, and it consumed 21 % of the world’s total energy in 2012. In recent years, the Chinese government decided to introduce several energy policy instruments to promote energy efficiency. For instance, the reduction targets for the level of energy intensity have been defined for provinces in China. However, energy intensity is not an accurate proxy for energy efficiency because changes in energy intensity are a function of changes in several socioeconomic factors. In this paper, we present an empirical analysis on the estimation of the persistent and transient energy efficiency of Chinese provinces by employing a log-log aggregate energy demand frontier model. The model is estimated by using data on 29 provinces observed over the period 2003 to 2012. Several econometric model specifications for panel data are used: the random effects model and the true random effects model along with other versions of these models. Our analysis shows that energy intensity cannot measure accurately the level of efficiency in the use of energy in Chinese provinces. Further, our empirical analysis shows that the average value of the persistent energy efficiency is around 0.81 whereas the average value of the transient energy efficiency is relatively high and shows a value of approximately 0.97. By improving the level of efficiency in the use of energy to 100 %, the total energy consumption in China would decrease by approximately 1000 Mtce, which corresponds to 25 % of total energy consumption in 2012.

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  1. In the period 1980–2000, China’s energy intensity declined 4.52 % annually. Though experienced a slight increase between 2002 and 2005, it continued with a staggering decline of 18 % between 2005 and 2010. Moreover, we observe heterogeneity in the level and the development of energy intensity across provinces. These differences may be related to variation in the level of central government pressure on provincial government targets to reduce the level of energy intensity.

  2. In previous works (Filippini and Hunt, 2011 and 2012) on the measurement of the level of energy efficiency using aggregate data, the term “underlying energy efficiency” has been used. In this study, following the recent papers by Filippini and Hunt (2015a and 2015b), the general term energy efficiency is used.

  3. For a presentation of parametric and non-parametric methods, see, for instance, Murillo-Zamorano (2004).

  4. In the literature on the estimation of the level of energy efficiency, it is possible to find studies based on non-parametric approaches such as DEA (Hu and Wang (2006), Zhou and Anag (2008)) as well as studies based on SFA (Filippini and Hunt (2011, 2015a, b), Lundgren et al. (2016)). To note, those both approaches have their own advocates. At least in the scientific community, neither one has emerged as dominant. For instance, the Journal of Productivity Analysis, the leading journal in the field of the measurement of productivity and efficiency, regularly publishes contributions based on DEA and contributions based on SFA.

  5. Many papers have also examined the driving forces for energy intensity decline in China using Divisia decomposition method. For instance, Fisher-Vanden et al. (2004) applied the approach using panel data for 2500 industrial enterprises and identified several forces such as research and development expenditures and changes in China’s industrial structure as the principal drivers. Hang and Tu (2007) followed similar approach and showed the asymmetric impacts of energy prices on energy intensity. There are also studies in literature on the structural change effects (Liao et al. 2007; Ma and Stern 2008). Song and Zheng (2012) combined decomposition analysis with econometric model and found the significant impacts of rising income as well as limited effect of energy price on the reduction of energy intensity.

  6. Generally, the empirical literature on the measurement of productive efficiency interprets time-varying and time-invariant inefficiency indicators as alternative measures of productive efficiency. See, for instance, Filippini and Hunt (2012). Only recently, Kumbhakar et al. (2014) introduced a new interpretation of these inefficiency measures based on complementarity. In this paper, we decided to follow this approach.

  7. Generally, the numbers of HDD and CDD are highly correlated. This correlation can create a multicollinearity problem in the econometric estimation. In order to avoid this problem, we use the sum of these two variables. We also tested our results by using dummies to represent different climate zones in Chinese provinces. The regression result shows that the climate variables are still statistically insignificant. Furthermore, the Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient of the estimated efficiencies between model using climate zones dummies and the model using HCDD is very high (around 0.92). Hence, we believe that the variable HCDD that we used in the paper captures the main information of the climate.

  8. As suggested in Filippini and Hunt (2012), time dummies can also be used as an alternative to capture the impacts of UEDT. In a preliminary analysis, we also used time dummies and the results were relatively similar.

  9. The yearbooks of China always have 1-year delay, which means that yearbook in 1997 reports the statistics of 1996.

  10. For a general presentation of these models, see Greene (2008) and Farsi and Filippini (2009). In a preliminary analysis, we also estimate a pooled model as well as a Battese and Coelli model (1992) where the inefficiency varies over time in a fixed way (exponentially). The results of both model specifications were not encouraging.

  11. Another alternative approach to measure the transient part of efficiency is the true fixed effects model Greene (2005a, 2005b).

  12. The TREM is estimated using a simulated maximum likelihood procedure.

  13. To note that in the literature using data for industrialized countries characterized by a relatively small weight of energy to GDP, this potential endogeneity problem is rarely considered.

  14. The instruments considered in our empirical analysis are the ratio of engineers in professional personnel (ENG it ), the number of secondary schools (SCH it ), and the number of teachers (TEA it ). In order to verify the validity of the instruments, we estimate a classic fixed effects model. To test for weak instruments, we compute the Cragg-Donald Wald F test statistic. The value of this statistic (12.21) is larger than the critical value at 10 % level of significance (9.08) suggested by Stock and Yogo (2003). Therefore, we reject the hypothesis that instruments are weak. The Hansen J statistic for testing the overidentification of all instruments does not reject the null hypothesis of valid instruments (chi-sq(2) = 0.50, P value = 0.78). All these results show that we are able to find reasonable instruments. Of course, we are aware that this procedure may not be completely satisfactory for the estimation of a SFA.

  15. As a robustness check, MREM-2SRI and MTREM-2SRI models are also estimated and presented in the paper.

  16. Lambda (λ) gives information on the relative contribution of uit and vit on the decomposed error term εit and shows that, in this case, the one-sided error component is relatively large.

  17. Given the fact that we are using a log-log functional form, the estimated coefficients can be interpreted as elasticities.

  18. In an explorative and preliminary analysis and following the approach suggested by Filippini et al. (2014), we also consider to verify the impact of the change of the energy policy on the level of energy efficiency. In fact, from 2006, the 11th Five-Year Plan and, from 2007, the revised energy conservation law have been implemented. The results show that these changes in the energy policy do not have statistically significant effect on the inefficiency term.

  19. In order to select the variables to consider in the Mundlak adjustment, we estimate a regular fixed and random effects model and we used the Hausman test. The model specification used in the estimation of the Mundlak version of REM and TREM was confirmed by the results of the Hausman test.

  20. The relatively high level of transient energy efficiency is not surprising, because part of the time-invariant inefficiency is captured by the individual effects. These results are in line with the results obtained in other studies that employ the TREM. See Filippini and Hunt (2005a, b).

  21. The Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient between the level of efficiency obtained using MREM and MREM-2SRI is 0.9951. Also, the rank correlation coefficient between the level of efficiency obtained using MTREM and MTREM-2SRI is very high (0.9749).


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This paper has been presented at Harvard University (Harvard China Project) and MIT (MIT/Tsinghua China Energy and Climate Project). We are grateful to participants for their comments and suggestions. We also thank the editor and the reviewers for the suggestions. Needless to say, we are responsible for any errors and omissions.

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Correspondence to Lin Zhang.

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Filippini, M., Zhang, L. Estimation of the energy efficiency in Chinese provinces. Energy Efficiency 9, 1315–1328 (2016).

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  • Chinese energy demand
  • Stochastic frontier analysis
  • Energy efficiency
  • Energy intensity

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