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The impact of the expansion in non-fossil electricity infrastructure on China’s carbon emissions

Rong Yuan, João F.D. Rodrigues, Arnold Tukker and Paul Behrens

Applied Energy, 2018, vol. 228, issue C, 1994-2008

Abstract: In recent years, China has embarked upon an ambitious roll-out of non-fossil electricity investments. This has led to substantial impacts on carbon emissions, which is expected to continue into the future. However, non-fossil electricity has a significant carbon footprint in pre-operation activities, which we term investments (in the form of the construction, transportation and assembly of electricity generators). This paper addresses two main questions: (1) How do non-fossil electricity investments impact CO2 emissions in China? and (2) How are such impacts distributed within China? To answer these questions, we use a hybrid, multi-region, input-output (MRIO) model to assess the emission impacts of investments compared with impacts during the operation of generators. As there was a large surge in the installed capacity during the analysis period (2002–2010) we considered a counterfactual scenario in which non-fossil electricity expansion did not occur, and where generation followed historical patterns (i.e. using fossil energy). Results indicate that non-fossil electricity investments resulted in a net emission increase of 16.21 Mt, 28.71 Mt and 47.29 Mt in 2002, 2007 and 2010 respectively, while the net emission reduction during the operational phase of electricity generation was, respectively, 48.84 Mt, 81.83 Mt and 129.48 Mt per year. Non-fossil electricity investments led to a significant increase of emissions in the northern, northeastern and northwestern regions due to a rapid development of wind power. In general, due to supply chains, developed regions (e.g. east China) outsource the carbon impacts of non-fossil electricity investments to developing regions (central and north China). The carbon impacts of non-fossil electricity investments are often transferred to adjacent regions.

Keywords: CO2 emissions; Non-fossil electricity; Investment; Multi-regional input-output model (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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