Targeting electricity’s extreme polluters to reduce energy-related CO2 emissions


In recent years, several scholars have recommended that countries reduce their energy-related CO2 emissions by setting carbon intensity targets for their electricity sectors. Other research by Freudenberg suggests that countries could substantially cut their emissions simply by focusing on lowering the intensities of electricity’s most extreme polluters. Using a unique international data source on power plants, we inform this issue by analyzing the distribution of CO2 emissions and intensities within countries’ electricity sectors. We find that the dirtiest 5 % of power plants are responsible for huge shares of their sectors’ total emissions. If these plants continued generating the same amount of electricity but met particular intensity targets, the world’s total electricity-based CO2 emissions could be reduced by as much as 44 %.

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We thank Kevin Ummel for technical assistance.

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Correspondence to Don Grant.

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Grant, D., Jorgenson, A. & Longhofer, W. Targeting electricity’s extreme polluters to reduce energy-related CO2 emissions. J Environ Stud Sci 3, 376–380 (2013).

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  • Global climate change
  • Electricity
  • Power plants
  • CO2 emissions
  • Sectoral strategies