Sunday, August 7th, 2011...11:33 pm

Estimating China Power Sector’s Carbon Emission

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Commenting on China’s energy and carbon policies, Yuhan Zhang of Columbia University wrote:

Worse yet, China still does not perform very well in collecting and reporting energy and carbon emissions data, despite attempts to improve their monitoring of energy use and emissions. There are two major reasons behind such problems. At the national level, official data records suffer from periodic revisions from a variety of agencies in China, leading to inconsistency and uncertainty. At the local level, Chinese local officials sometimes misreport data or inhibit transparency so as to please higher-ups or make for more favourable employment evaluations. Notably, among all of China’s energy use data, coal is well known as the least accurate, partly because China has more than 1,100 counties with operating coal mines. Take coal data in 2002: after two revisions,  the final consensus increased coal consumption by more than 9.2 per cent from the original estimate.

This rings true to me. How do you even start on emission reduction if you don’t even know how much the current level is?

I’ve been helping Center for Global Development updating CARMA, a database of emission data from nearly 50,000 power plants owned by 4,000 companies around the globe. Due to the lack of information transparency in China, it is extremely difficult to gather China’s emission data. So this is what I did:


1. Find the annual power output data of individual power plants around the country (below are statistics from two biggest power companies in China):


2. Get the electricity consumption and coal consumption data of the generators (below are testing results of two kinds of coal at Huaneng’s coal power plants)

Coal and power consumption rate of each generator unit (Below are estimations of Huaneng’s generators)

3. For other types of plants, I would use CARMA’s own estimation. (Below: regression results from David Wheeler and Kevin Ummel’s working paper “Calculating CARMA: Global Estimation of CO2 Emissions from the Power Sector”)

4. Now just plug in the carbon rate estimation into the original power output spreadsheet, and you’ll get the carbon emission data — hooray! (Below are my own estimations of two dozens Huaneng plants, still working on data for other plants. Click for bigger picture.)

[numbers on the left shows thousand tons per year total emission]



The database update will be completed in several months. What I think will be very interesting besides looking at the trend of emission production, is to compare the data with these company’s own carbon targets in their sustainability report.

I will report more findings on this.


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  • Good job Ella! I’m looking forward to your new findings. I think another important thing here is to know the energy inefficiencies in the economy and take actions, replace the incandescent lights with LEDs(it does save money and maintenance!), allow Yunan’s biofuel into market, encourage smarter use of air-conditioner, then people will eventually see the electricity bills dropping.

  • Great post with amazing content!I have an energy website, Can i post your post to my site,and I put a link back to your site

  • Thanks. Sure, you can repost all you want.

  • Hi Ella! First I want to say that you are doing awesome work! I am writing a little piece on issues surrounding Chinese emissions, and was hoping to use some of your information (namely, emissions data). Would this be possible? Also, I might be daft but when I look at the graphic you’ve generated from your data, I can’t help but thinking that they key provides for 23 plants, while there are 24 lines, and namely the top line (highest polluter, whom I’m interested in) is missing from the key. Am I missing something completely? If not, who might that be? Thank you so much in advance and I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of your results!

  • Great! thanks for the share

  • China overtook the United States to become the world’s largest contributor to CO2 emissions in 2007. At the same time, China has taken serious actions to reduce its energy and carbon intensity by setting both a short-term energy intensity reduction goal for 2006 to 2010 as well as a long-term carbon intensity reduction goal for 2020.

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