CO2 emissions from China's power sector at the provincial level: Consumption versus production perspectives

Soeren Lindner, Zhu Liu, Dabo Guan, Yong Geng, Xin Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Citations (Scopus)


The Chinese electricity sector plays an important role in domestic CO 2 mitigation efforts due to its large contribution to overall emissions. However, primary energy resources used for electricity generation are not evenly distributed across the country. Such a supply and demand mismatch in reality results in large parts of electricity to be transferred from economically less developed provinces in the west to economic growth centres in the east. A literature review shows that the emissions embodied in electricity transfer within China have not been explicitly studied, although in fact they cause a shift of environmental pollution away from economically well-off provinces to resource-rich, and less developed provinces. Therefore, it is critical for policy makers to address this issue. Under such a circumstance, a bottom-up model is developed to calculate direct CO2 emissions embodied in electricity export and import between Chinese provinces. It helps quantifying emissions from the power sector associated with both production and consumption perspectives and sheds lights on the environmental impact of regional supply and demand mismatch in China. Results show that the difference between consumption and production based CO2 emissions from electricity sector in some provinces were higher than the total CO2 emissions from electricity sector in Netherlands (in the case of Beijing), or as high as the total CO2 emission from France's electricity sector (in the case of Guangdong). Based upon Chinese realities, policy implications and suggestions are made, such as how to set up appropriate emission reduction targets for electricity sector at provincial level, and the inclusion of consumption emissions in designing China's cap-and-trade mechanism. The methodology and findings may be useful for investigation of embodied emissions throughout various regions of the world.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)164-172
Number of pages9
JournalRenewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013


  • China
  • CO2 emission
  • Consumption versus Production
  • Power sector

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