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Economic Analysis of Multi-pollutant Control in Coal-Fired Electricity Plants in China


  • Wu Dan

    () (Peking University)

  • Xie Xuxuan

    (Peking University)


China is experiencing severe complex air pollution and huge greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as a result of its booming economy over the last 30 years. In order to control air pollution, multiple pollutants should be targeted simultaneously. To cope with current international climate change problems, GHG emissions reduction should be considered alongside air pollution control. In the past 30 years conventional air pollution control strategy in China has focused on controlling one pollutant over a period of time, followed by controlling another pollutant in the next period. However, total emissions reduction of a single pollutant does not proportionally improve urban ambient air quality. In this study, single pollutant control strategy (SPC) is defined as an air pollution control strategy that sets pollutant reduction targets one by one. Multiple pollutant control (MPC) is defined as a strategy that sets multiple pollutant reduction targets at the same time. Under SPC polluters choose control technologies with less flexibility, which can lead to higher costs compared to MPC. In this study we show the difference between SPC and MPC, focusing on the coal-fired electricity sector. Our results show that end-of-pipe technology schemes for coal-fired power plants under MPC are more cost-effective than SPC. At plant level, compared to SPC, MPC sacrifices 7% of SO2 removal but provides a 6% and 9% increase in NOX and Hg removal respectively, and costs less than SPC. At sector level, MPC sacrifices 2 million tonnes of SO2 reduction per year but improves PM reduction by 1 million tonnes and increases Hg reduction by 34.5 tonnes per year. These reductions cost 8 billion CNY per year less than SPC. If coal washing were to be added to 20% of the sector’s installed capacity, based on MPC, then more than10 million tonnes of SO2, 56 million tonnes of PM and 55 tonnes of Hg could be further reduced every year, with a total cost of6 billion CNY a year less than SPC. If PM and Hg cause more damage per unit than SO2, then MPC reduces more damage for the same cost or for a reduced total cost. Substituting small units with advanced coal combustion technologies under MPC has the advantage of controlling multiple pollutant emissions as early as possible, especially taking CO2 emissions control into account. Suggestions are given to support China’s pollution control strategy transition. Turning from a SPC strategy to a MPC strategy, the key elements of a pollution control scheme for China’s coal-fired power sector should be: high priority should be given to coal washing; the installation of end-of-pipe technologies should be compared with advanced coal combustion plants for plants of a regular or small size (300MW); plants which have not installed wet FGD should consider other desulfurization facilities because desulfurization facilities with better removal effects for other pollutants (except SO2) are of use; and regulation should be strengthened to ensure the technical performance of installed equipment rather than just pursuing a high installation ratio.

Suggested Citation

  • Wu Dan & Xie Xuxuan, 2013. "Economic Analysis of Multi-pollutant Control in Coal-Fired Electricity Plants in China," EEPSEA Research Report rr2013022, Economy and Environment Program for Southeast Asia (EEPSEA), revised Feb 2013.
  • Handle: RePEc:eep:report:rr2013022

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Tzimas, Evangelos & Mercier, Arnaud & Cormos, Calin-Cristian & Peteves, Stathis D., 2007. "Trade-off in emissions of acid gas pollutants and of carbon dioxide in fossil fuel power plants with carbon capture," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(8), pages 3991-3998, August.
    2. Zhao, Lifeng & Xiao, Yunhan & Gallagher, Kelly Sims & Wang, Bo & Xu, Xiang, 2008. "Technical, environmental, and economic assessment of deploying advanced coal power technologies in the Chinese context," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(7), pages 2709-2718, July.
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    pollution; China;

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