Power Sector

Peng^, Liqun, Feiqi Liu^, Mi Zhou^, Mingwei Li#, Qiang Zhang, and Denise L. Mauzerall+. “Alternative-energy-vehicles deployment delivers climate, air quality, and health co-benefits when coupled with decarbonizing power generation in China.” One Earth 4 (2021).Abstract
We estimate the co-benefits of AEV utilization for air quality, health, and climate, and evaluate the economic benefits of AEV penetration with various levels of decarbonized electricity in China. We find that air quality and GHG mitigation co-benefits through alternative energy vehicle deployment increases as the power sector decarbonized. Co­benefits are maximized via high penetration of AEV deployment powered with ambitious and rapid power sector decarbonization.
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Chen^, Xu, and Denise L. Mauzerall+. “The Expanding Coal Power Fleet in Southeast Asia: Implications for Future CO2 Emissions and Electricity Generation.” Earth's Future 9, no. 12 (2021).Abstract
Coal combustion for power generation made up 30% of global CO2 emissions in 2018. To achieve the goal of the Paris Agreement to keep global average temperatures below 2°C, power generation must be decarbonized globally by mid-century. This requires a rapid phase-out of coal-fired power generation. However, global coal power expansion continues, mostly in developing countries where electricity demand continues to increase. Since the early 2010s, Southeast Asia's coal power capacity expansion has been among the fastest in the world, following China and India, but its implications for the global climate and regional energy transition remain understudied. Here we examine Southeast Asia's power generation pipeline as of mid-2020 and evaluate its implications for the region's CO2 emissions over the plant lifetime as well as projected electricity generation between 2020-2030 in Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. We find that power plants under construction and planned in Southeast Asia as of 2020 will more than double the region's fossil fuel power generation capacity. If all fossil fuel plants under development are built, Southeast Asia's power sector CO2 emissions will increase by 72% from 2020 to 2030 and long-term committed emissions will double. Moreover, in Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines, projected electricity generation from fossil fuel plants under development, combined with generation from renewable capacity targets and existing power capacity, will exceed future national electricity demand. As a result, fossil fuel plants will likely be underutilized and/or become stranded assets while also potentially crowding out renewable energy deployment.
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Chen^, Xu, Zhongshu Li^, Kevin P. Gallagher, and Denise L. Mauzerall+. “Financing carbon lock-in in developing countries: Bilateral financing for power generation technologies from China, Japan, and the United States.” Applied Energy 300 (2021).Abstract
Power sector decarbonization requires a fundamental redirection of global finance from fossil fuel infrastructure towards low carbon technologies. Bilateral finance plays an important role in the global energy transition to non-fossil energy, but an understanding of its impact is limited. Here, for the first time, we compare the influence of overseas finance from the three largest economies – United States, China, and Japan – on power generation development beyond their borders and evaluate the associated long-term CO2 emissions. We construct a new dataset of Japanese and U.S. overseas power generation finance between 2000 and 2018 by analyzing their national development finance institutions’ press releases and annual reports and tracking their foreign direct investment at the power plant level. Synthesizing this new data with previously developed datasets for China, we find that the three countries’ overseas financing concentrated in fossil fuel power technologies over the studied period. Financing commitments from China, Japan, and the United States facilitated 101 GW, 95 GW, and 47 GW overseas power capacity additions, respectively. The majority of facilitated capacity additions are fossil fuel plants (64% for China, 87% for Japan, and 66% for the United States). Each of the countries’ contributions to non-hydro renewable generation was less than 15% of their facilitated capacity additions. Together, we estimate that overseas fossil fuel power financing through 2018 from these three countries will lock in 24 Gt CO2 emissions by 2060. If climate targets are to be met, replacing bilateral fossil fuel financing with financing of renewable technologies is crucial.
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Li^, Zhongshu, Kevin Gallagher, Xu Chen^, Jiahai Yuan, and Denise L. Mauzerall. “Pushing out or pulling in? The determinants of Chinese energy finance in developing countries.” Energy Research & Social Science (2021).Abstract
China is now one of the world’s largest financiers and investors in the global electric power sector. While a number of important qualitative analyses have examined the determinants of Chinese energy finance, this paper deploys new data to perform the first econometric analysis to examine the determinants of Chinese overseas financing for electric power plants. Drawing on that earlier work, we examine a number of ‘push factors’ – incentives in China that facilitate investment abroad—and ‘pull factors’ – incentives in recipient countries that facilitate Chinese investment into their country. On the push side, we find that domestic overcapacity in China plays a key role in facilitating China’s development finance in these plants. On the pull side, we find that the size of local demand for new power projects and the resource potential for electric power in recipient countries are significantly correlated with the size of Chinese financing. We also find existing Chinese involvement in past power projects likely facilitates new Chinese overseas financing.
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Tao^, Yiheng, Ryan W. J. Edwards, Denise L. Mauzerall, and Michael A. Celia. “Strategic Carbon Dioxide Infrastructure to Achieve a Low-CarbonPower Sector in the Midwestern and South-Central United States.” Environmental Science & Technology (2021).Abstract
Large-scale carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) requires development of critical infrastructure to connect capture locations to geological storage sites. Here, we investigate what government policies would be required to make the development of CO2 pipelines and large-scale CCUS in the power sector economically viable. We focus on the transition from conventional coal to non-CO2-emitting natural gas-fired Allam-cycle power with CCUS and study a system in which 156 Allam-cycle power generators representing 100 GW of capacity send their captured CO2 emissions to three geological storage locations in the central United States through 7500 miles of new pipeline. Enabling policies for this system include low-interest government loans of approximately $20 billion for pipeline construction and an extended 20-year Section 45Q tax credit, or similar longer-term carbon price incentive. Additional policy support will be needed to enable initial construction of pipelines and early mover power generators, such as cost-sharing, governments assuming future demand risk, or increased subsidies to early movers. The proposed system will provide reliable, dispatchable, flexible zero-emission power generation, complementing the intermittent generation by renewables in a decarbonized U.S. power sector. The proposed pipeline network could also connect into future regional infrastructure networks and facilitate large-scale carbon management.
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Chen^, Xu, Kevin P. Gallagher, and Denise L. Mauzerall+. “Chinese Overseas Development Financing of Electric Power Generation: A Comparative Analysis.” One Earth 3 (2020): 491-503.Abstract


The Paris climate goals require rapid decarbonization of the global power generation sector. To achieve this goal, it is critical to redirect international development finance away from fossil fuel toward renewable energy technologies. We find that East Asian national DFIs have committed to finance a new generation of coal power plants. However, China’s new domestic decarbonization goal, if extended to its overseas finance, will be enormously valuable in reducing future carbon emissions from recipient countries.


Global power generation must rapidly decarbonize by mid-century to meet the goal of stabilizing global warming below 2C. To meet this objective, multilateral development banks (MDBs) have gradually reduced fossil fuel and increased renewable energy financing. Meanwhile, globally active national development finance institutions (DFIs) from Japan and South Korea have continued to finance overseas coal plants. Less is known about the increasingly active Chinese DFIs. Here, we construct a new dataset of China’s policy banks’ overseas power generation financing and compare their technology choices and impact on generation capacity with MDBs and Japanese and South Korean DFIs. We find that Chinese DFI power financing since 2000 has dramatically increased, surpassing other East Asian national DFIs and the major MDBs’ collective public sector power financing in 2013. As most Chinese DFI financing is currently in coal, decarbonization of their power investments will be critical in reducing future carbon emissions from recipient countries.

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Li^, Zhongshu, Kevin P. Gallagher, and Denise L. Mauzerall+. “China’s global power: Estimating Chinese foreign direct investment in the electric power sector.” Energy Policy 136 (2020): 1-9.Abstract
We analyze the spatial and technological distribution of China’s overseas electric power investments around the world, and the pollution intensity of Chinese coal fired power plants relative to those held by non-Chinese entities. We find that Chinese firms hold approximately $115 billion USD in electric power assets globally, with an average of 73% ownership stake in a total capacity of 81 GW. Chinese power investments span the globe but are largely found in developing countries, particularly in Asia and Latin America. The vast majority of Chinese investment goes to coal (24.5 GW), gas (20.5 GW) and hydropower (18.1 GW), while the share of wind (7.2 GW) and solar (3.1 GW) is relatively small but may be rising. The energy mix of Chinese overseas investment is similar to the existing world portfolio. Within the coal sector, between 2011 and 2017, the majority of Chinese greenfield investment in coal used supercritical technologies (58 percent) while only 34 percent of non-Chinese coal plants built during this period were supercritical.
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Yang^, Junnan, Xiaoyuan Li^, Wei Peng^, Fabian Wagner, and Denise L. Mauzerall+. “Climate, air quality and human health benefits of various solar photovoltaic deployment scenarios in China in 2030.” Environmental Research Letters 13, no. 6 (2018).Abstract
Solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity generation can greatly reduce both air pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil fuel electricity generation. The Chinese government plans to greatly scale up solar PV installation between now and 2030. However, different PV development pathways will influence the range of air quality and climate benefits. Benefits depend on how much electricity generated from PV is integrated into power grids and the type of power plant displaced. Using a coal-intensive power sector projection as the base case, we estimate the climate, air quality, and related human health benefits of various 2030 PV deployment scenarios. We use the 2030 government goal of 400 GW installed capacity but vary the location of PV installation and the extent of inter-provincial PV electricity transmission. We find that deploying distributed PV in the east with inter-provincial transmission maximizes potential CO2 reductions and air quality-related health benefits (4.2% and 1.2% decrease in national total CO2 emissions and air pollution-related premature deaths compared to the base case, respectively). Deployment in the east with inter-provincial transmission results in the largest benefits because it maximizes displacement of the dirtiest coal-fired power plants and minimizes PV curtailment, which is more likely to occur without inter-provincial transmission. We further find that the maximum co-benefits achieved with deploying PV in the east and enabling inter-provincial transmission are robust under various maximum PV penetration levels in both provincial and regional grids. We find large potential benefits of policies that encourage distributed PV deployment and facilitate inter-provincial PV electricity transmission in China.
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Peng^, Wei, Junnan Yang^, Xi Lu, and Denise L. Mauzerall+. “Potential co-benefits of electrification for air quality, health, and CO2 mitigation in 2030 China.” Applied Energy (2018).Abstract
Electrification with decarbonized electricity is a central strategy for carbon mitigation. End-use electrification can also reduce air pollutant emissions from the demand sectors, which brings public health co-benefits. Here we focus on electrification strategies for China, a country committed to both reducing air pollution and peaking carbon emissions before 2030. Considering both coal-intensive and decarbonized power system scenarios for 2030, we assess the air quality, health and climate co-benefits of various end-use electrification scenarios for the vehicle and residential sectors relative to a non-electrified coal-intensive business-as-usual scenario (BAU). Based on an integrated assessment using the regional air pollution model WRF-Chem and epidemiological concentration–response relationships, we find that coal-intensive electrification (75% coal) does not reduce carbon emissions, but can bring significant air quality and health benefits (41,000–57,000 avoided deaths in China annually). In comparison, switching to a half decarbonized power supply (∼50% coal) for electrification of the transport and/or residential sectors leads to a 14–16% reduction in carbon emissions compared to BAU, as well as greater air quality and health co-benefits (55,000–69,000 avoided deaths in China annually) than coal intensive electrification. Furthermore, depending on which end-use sector is electrified, we find different regional distributions of air quality and health benefits. While electrifying the transport sector improves air quality throughout eastern China, electrifying the residential sector brings most benefits to the North China Plain region in winter where coal-based heating contributes substantially to air pollution.
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Qin, Yue, Ryan Edwards, Fan Tong, and Denise L. Mauzerall+. “Can Switching from Coal to Shale Gas Bring Net Carbon Reductions to China?Environmental Science & Technology (2017). Publisher's VersionAbstract
To increase energy security and reduce emissions of air pollutants and CO2from coal use, China is attempting to duplicate the rapid development of shale gas that has taken place in the United States. This work builds a framework to estimate the lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from China’s shale gas system and compares them with GHG emissions from coal used in the power, residential, and industrial sectors. We find the mean lifecycle carbon footprint of shale gas is about 30–50% lower than that of coal in all sectors under both 20 year and 100 year global warming potentials (GWP20 and GWP100). However, primarily due to large uncertainties in methane leakage, the upper bound estimate of the lifecycle carbon footprint of shale gas in China could be approximately 15–60% higher than that of coal across sectors under GWP20. To ensure net GHG emission reductions when switching from coal to shale gas, we estimate the breakeven methane leakage rates to be approximately 6.0%, 7.7%, and 4.2% in the power, residential, and industrial sectors, respectively, under GWP20. We find shale gas in China has a good chance of delivering air quality and climate cobenefits, particularly when used in the residential sector, with proper methane leakage control.
Peng, Wei, Junnan Yang, Fabian Wagner, and Denise L. Mauzerall+. “Substantial air quality and climate co-benefits achievable now with sectoral mitigation strategies in China.” Science of the Total Environment 598 (2017): 1076-1084.Abstract
China is the world's top carbon emitter and suffers from severe air pollution. We examine near-term air quality and CO2 co-benefits of various current sector-based policies in China. Using a 2015 base case, we evaluate the potential benefits of four sectoral mitigation strategies. All scenarios include a 20% increase in conventional air pollution controls as well as the following sector-specific fuel switching or technology upgrade strategies. Power sector (POW): 80% replacement of small coal power plants with larger more efficient ones; Industry sector (IND): 10% improvement in energy efficiency; Transport sector (TRA): replacement of high emitters with average vehicle fleet emissions; and Residential sector (RES): replacement of 20% of coal-based stoves with stoves using liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). Conducting an integrated assessment using the regional air pollution model WRFChem, we find that the IND scenario reduces national air-pollution-related deaths the most of the four scenarios examined (27,000, 24,000, 13,000 and 23,000 deaths reduced annually in IND, POW, TRA and RES, respectively). In addition, the IND scenario reduces CO2 emissions more than 8 times as much as any other scenario (440, 53, 0 and 52 Mt CO2 reduced in IND, POW, TRA and RES, respectively). We also examine the benefits of an industrial efficiency improvement of just 5%. We find the resulting air quality and health benefits are still among the largest of the sectoral scenarios, while the carbon mitigation benefits remain more than 3 times larger than any other scenario. Our analysis hence highlights the importance of even modest industrial energy efficiency improvements and air pollution control technology upgrades for air quality, health and climate benefits in China.
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Peng, Wei, Jiahai Yuan, Yu Zhao, Meiyun Lin, Qiang Zhang, David G Victor, and Denise L Mauzerall+. “Air quality and climate benefits of long-distance electricity transmission in China.” Environmental Research Letters 12, no. 6 (2017).Abstract
China is the world’s top carbon emitter and suffers from severe air pollution. It has recently made commitments to improve air quality and to peak its CO2 emissions by 2030. We examine one strategy that can potentially address both issues—utilizing long-distance electricity transmission to bring renewable power to the polluted eastern provinces. Based on an integrated assessment using state-of-the-science atmospheric modeling and recent epidemiological evidence, we find that transmitting a hybrid of renewable (60%) and coal power (40%) (Hybrid-by-wire) reduces 16% more national air-pollution-associated deaths and decreases three times more carbon emissions than transmitting only coal-based electricity. Moreover, although we find that transmitting coal power (Coal-by-Wire, CbW) is slightly more effective at reducing air pollution impacts than replacing old coal power plants with newer cleaner ones in the east (Coal-by-Rail, CbR) (CbW achieves a 6% greater reduction in national total air-pollution-related mortalities than CbR), both coal scenarios have approximately the same carbon emissions. We thus demonstrate that coordinating transmission planning with renewable energy deployment is critical to maximize both local air quality benefits and global climate benefits.
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Qin, Yue, Fabian Wagner, Noah Scovronick, Wei Peng, Junnan Yang, Tong Zhu, Kirk R. Smith, and Denise L. Mauzerall+. “Air quality, health, and climate implications of China's synthetic natural gas development.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 114, no. 19 (2017): 4887-4892.Abstract
Facing severe air pollution and growing dependence on natural gas imports, the Chinese government plans to increase coal-based synthetic natural gas (SNG) production. Although displacement of coal with SNG benefits air quality, it increases CO2 emissions. Due to variations in air pollutant and CO2 emission factors and energy efficiencies across sectors, coal replacement with SNG results in varying degrees of air quality benefits and climate penalties. We estimate air quality, human health, and climate impacts of SNG substitution strategies in 2020. Using all production of SNG in the residential sector results in an annual decrease of ∼32,000 (20,000 to 41,000) outdoor-air-pollutionassociated premature deaths, with ranges determined by the low and high estimates of the health risks. If changes in indoor/household air pollution were also included, the decrease would be far larger. SNG deployment in the residential sector results in nearly 10 and 60 times greater reduction in premature mortality than if it is deployed in the industrial or power sectors, respectively. Due to inefficiencies in current household coal use, utilization of SNG in the residential sector results in only 20 to 30% of the carbon penalty compared with using it in the industrial or power sectors. Even if carbon capture and storage is used in SNG production with today’s technology, SNG emits 22 to 40% more CO2 than the same amount of conventional gas. Among the SNG deployment strategies we evaluate, allocating currently planned SNG to households provides the largest air quality and health benefits with the smallest carbon penalties
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Mauzerall, D. L, B. Sultan, J Kim, and D. Bradford. “NOx Emissions: Variability in Ozone Production, Resulting Health Damages and Economic Costs.” Atmospheric Environment 39, no. 16 (2005): 2851-2866.Abstract
We present a proof-of-concept analysis of the measurement of the health damage of ozone (O3) produced from nitrogen oxides ðNOx ¼ NO þ NO2Þ emitted by individual large point sources in the eastern United States. We use a regional atmospheric model of the eastern United States, the Comprehensive Air quality Model with Extensions (CAMx), to quantify the variable impact that a fixed quantity of NOx emitted from individual sources can have on the downwind concentration of surface O3, depending on temperature and local biogenic hydrocarbon emissions. We also examine the dependence of resulting O3-related health damages on the size of the exposed population. The investigation is relevant to the increasingly widely used ‘‘cap and trade’’ approach to NOx regulation, which presumes that shifts of emissions over time and space, holding the total fixed over the course of the summer O3 season, will have minimal effect on the environmental outcome. By contrast, we show that a shift of a unit of NOx emissions from one place or time to another could result in large changes in resulting health effects due to O3 formation and exposure. We indicate how the type of modeling carried out here might be used to attach externality-correcting prices to emissions. Charging emitters fees that are commensurate with the damage caused by their NOx emissions would create an incentive for emitters to reduce emissions at times and in locations where they cause the largest damage.
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