IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Engineering and optimization approaches to enhance the thermal efficiency of coal electricity generation in China


  • Xu, Yuan
  • Yang, Chi-Jen
  • Xuan, Xiaowei


China has made improving the thermal efficiencies of its coal-fired power plants a national priority. Official data show that the average thermal efficiency was enhanced from 31.3% in 2000 to 33.2% in 2005 and 36.9% in 2010. This paper aims to assess the validity of China's claimed improvement, examine major responsible factors, and identify future improvement opportunities. Recognizable factors can account for about 80% of the reported progress in the 10th Five-Year Plan (2001–2005) and about 85% in the 11th (2006–2010) to largely verify the reported progress. Engineering approaches—especially replacing inefficient power units with more efficient ones—are the largest contributing factors, while optimization approaches—particularly electricity dispatch—remains inefficient in China. In 2010, the explainable efficiency improvement might have avoided around 500 million tons of CO2 emissions. In comparison, although the United States was fairly static with most of its coal-fired power plants seriously outdated, it has more efficient electricity dispatch. In China's ongoing 12th Five-Year Plan (2011–2015), better dispatch patterns could be more important as opportunities for improvement through engineering approaches have been largely exhausted.

Suggested Citation

  • Xu, Yuan & Yang, Chi-Jen & Xuan, Xiaowei, 2013. "Engineering and optimization approaches to enhance the thermal efficiency of coal electricity generation in China," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 356-363.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:60:y:2013:i:c:p:356-363
    DOI: 10.1016/j.enpol.2013.05.047

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Levinson, Arik, 1999. "Grandfather regulations, new source bias, and state air toxics regulations," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(2), pages 299-311, February.
    2. Nelson, Randy A & Tietenberg, Tom & Donihue, Michael R, 1993. "Differential Environmental Regulation: Effects on Electric Utility Capital Turnover and Emissions," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 75(2), pages 368-373, May.
    3. Stanton, Timothy J., 1993. "Capacity utilization and new source bias : Evidence from the US electric power industry," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 57-60, January.
    4. Joskow, Paul L., 2005. "Transmission policy in the United States," Utilities Policy, Elsevier, vol. 13(2), pages 95-115, June.
    5. Yuan Xu, 2011. "The use of a goal for SO2 mitigation planning and management in China's 11th Five-Year Plan," Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 54(6), pages 769-783.
    6. Geller, Howard & Harrington, Philip & Rosenfeld, Arthur H. & Tanishima, Satoshi & Unander, Fridtjof, 2006. "Polices for increasing energy efficiency: Thirty years of experience in OECD countries," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(5), pages 556-573, March.
    7. Sun, J. W., 1998. "Changes in energy consumption and energy intensity: A complete decomposition model," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 85-100, February.
    8. Xu, Yuan, 2013. "Using performance indicators to reduce cost uncertainty of China's CO2 mitigation goals," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 454-461.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Eisenack, Klaus, 2016. "Institutional adaptation to cooling water scarcity for thermoelectric power generation under global warming," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 124(C), pages 153-163.
    2. Huang, Weilong & Ma, Ding & Chen, Wenying, 2017. "Connecting water and energy: Assessing the impacts of carbon and water constraints on China’s power sector," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 185(P2), pages 1497-1505.
    3. Qin, Ying & Curmi, Elizabeth & Kopec, Grant M. & Allwood, Julian M. & Richards, Keith S., 2015. "China's energy-water nexus – assessment of the energy sector's compliance with the “3 Red Lines” industrial water policy," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 82(C), pages 131-143.
    4. Li Li & Jianjun Wang, 2015. "The Effects of Coal Switching and Improvements in Electricity Production Efficiency and Consumption on CO 2 Mitigation Goals in China," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 7(7), pages 1-20, July.
    5. Khanna, Nina Zheng & Zhou, Nan & Fridley, David & Ke, Jing, 2016. "Quantifying the potential impacts of China's power-sector policies on coal input and CO2 emissions through 2050: A bottom-up perspective," Utilities Policy, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 128-138.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:60:y:2013:i:c:p:356-363. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.