At the Peking University SOE Forum held in Beijing on Wednesday, China's energy experts and scholars pointed out that the development of natural gas as an energy alternative to curb air pollution is crucial to China's future energy structure.
The forum came after large parts of China's north were shrouded in thick smog earlier this month, caused in large part by power stations that fuel heating systems during the winter.
The experts agreed that it is right to burn more natural gas to fight pollution woes.
Energy expert Jia Ailin said that China uses less clean energy compared with European countries, with natural gas making up about 6 percent of the energy mix.
Despite the smaller share of natural gas, China's liquefied natural gas imports surged to a record last month, as the world's third-biggest buyer increased shipments to offset winter demand, according to a Bloomberg report.
Shi Dan, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, pointed out China's increasing reliance on imported natural gas as its own output cannot feed the domestic market.
Shi revealed that China's dependence on imported natural gas had reached 38 percent by 2015 and the figure will climb to 45 percent in 2020.
Beijing burns more than 100 million cubic meters of natural gas daily during the winter and is the third largest user of the fuel among cities around the world, falling only behind New York and Moscow, according to the municipal government.
According to China's energy strategy, by 2020 natural gas will rise to 10 percent of national total primary energy consumption, meaning that natural gas consumption will reach 360 billion cubic meters by then.
"Developing natural gas is the trend," said Jia Ailin.
Shi Dan warned that although China leads the world in terms of growth and size of renewable energy, it still faces very acute environmental issues, adding that natural gas is more expensive than other kinds of energy, so burning natural gas needs subsidies or otherwise will incur losses.
She advised that China should accelerate the price reform of natural gas as a first step.
Since exploiting natural gas is hard in China because of complicated typology, Jia suggested more importation and new ways to secure natural energy supplies.