Xi Lu, Chris P. Nielsen, Chongyu Zhang, Jiacong Li, Xu He, Ye Wu, Shuxiao Wang, Feng Song, Chu Wei, Kebin He, Michael P. McElroy, and Jiming Hao. 2021. “Combined solar power and storage as cost-competitive and grid-compatible supply for China’s future carbon-neutral electricity system.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118, October, Pp. 42. Publisher's VersionAbstract
As the world’s largest CO2 emitter, China’s ability to decarbonize its energy system strongly affects the prospect of achieving the 1.5 °C limit in global, average surface-temperature rise. Understanding technically feasible, cost-competitive, and grid-compatible solar photovoltaic (PV) power potentials spatiotemporally is critical for China’s future energy pathway. This study develops an integrated model to evaluate the spatiotemporal evolution of the technology-economic-grid PV potentials in China during 2020 to 2060 under the assumption of continued cost degression in line with the trends of the past decade. The model considers the spatialized technical constraints, up-to-date economic parameters, and dynamic hourly interactions with the power grid. In contrast to the PV production of 0.26 PWh in 2020, results suggest that China’s technical potential will increase from 99.2 PWh in 2020 to 146.1 PWh in 2060 along with technical advances, and the national average power price could decrease from 4.9 to 0.4 US cents/kWh during the same period. About 78.6% (79.7 PWh) of China’s technical potential will realize price parity to coal-fired power in 2021, with price parity achieved nationwide by 2023. The cost advantage of solar PV allows for coupling with storage to generate cost-competitive and grid-compatible electricity. The combined systems potentially could supply 7.2 PWh of grid-compatible electricity in 2060 to meet 43.2% of the country’s electricity demand at a price below 2.5 US cents/kWh. The findings highlight a crucial energy transition point, not only for China but for other countries, at which combined solar power and storage systems become a cheaper alternative to coal-fired electricity and a more grid-compatible option.
Lu et al. is the cover article of this October issue of PNAS
Jonathan D'Souza, Felix Prasanna, Luna-Nefeli Valayannopoulos-Akrivou, Peter John Sherman, Elise Penn, Shaojie Song, Alexander Archibald, and Michael B McElroy. 2021. “Projected changes in seasonal and extreme summertime temperature and precipitation in India in response to COVID-19 recovery emissions scenarios.” Environmental Research Letters. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Fossil fuel and aerosol emissions have played important roles on climate over the Indian subcontinent over the last century. As the world transitions toward decarbonization in the next few decades, emissions pathways could have major impacts on India's climate and people. Pathways for future emissions are highly uncertain, particularly at present as countries recover from COVID-19. This paper explores a multimodel ensemble of Earth system models leveraging potential global emissions pathways following COVID-19 and the consequences for India's summertime (June-July-August-September) climate in the near- and long-term. We investigate specifically scenarios which envisage a fossil-based recovery, a strong renewable-based recovery and a moderate scenario in between the two. We find that near-term climate changes are dominated by natural climate variability, and thus likely independent of the emissions pathway. By 2050, pathway-induced spatial patterns in the seasonally-aggregated precipitation become clearer with a drying in the fossil-based scenario and wetting in the strong renewable scenario. Additionally, extreme temperature and precipitation events in India are expected to increase in magnitude and frequency regardless of the emissions scenario, though the spatial patterns of these changes as well as the extent of the change are pathway dependent. This study provides an important discussion on the impacts of emissions recover pathways following COVID-19 on India, a nation which is likely to be particularly susceptible to climate change over the coming decades.
Shaodan Huang, Shaojie Song, Chris P. Nielsen, Yuqiang Zhang, Jianyin Xiong, Louise B. Weschler, Shaodong Xie, and Jing Li. 2022. “Residential building materials: An important source of ambient formaldehyde in mainland China.” Environment International, 158, January, Pp. 106909. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This study investigates the contribution of formaldehyde from residential building materials to ambient air in mainland China. Based on 265 indoor field tests in 9 provinces, we estimate that indoor residential sources are responsible for 6.66% of the total anthropogenic formaldehyde in China’s ambient air (range for 31 provinces: 1.88–18.79%). Residential building materials rank 6th among 81 anthropogenic sources (range: 2nd–10th for 31 provinces). Emission intensities show large spatial variability between and within regions due to different residential densities, emission characteristics of building materials, and indoor thermal conditions. Our findings indicate that formaldehyde from the indoor environment is a significant source of ambient formaldehyde, especially in urban areas. This study will help to more accurately evaluate exposure to ambient formaldehyde and its related pollutants, and will assist in formulating policies to protect air quality and public health.
Minghao Zhuang, Xi Lu, Wei Peng, Yanfen Wang, Jianxiao Wang, Chris P. Nielsen, and Michael B. McElroy. 2021. “Opportunities for household energy on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in line with United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.” Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 144, July 2021, Pp. 110982. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Approximately seven million population in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau of China, a global climate sensitive region, still rely primarily on yak dung for household cooking and heating. The treatment and combustion of yak dung result in a variety of negative impacts in terms of local alpine grassland degradation, indoor air pollution, public health risk, as well as global climate change. There is an urgent need to explore alternative pathway for affordable and clean energy as indicated in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. This perspective has analyzed the key challenges rooted in yak dung use on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau region. Based on this, this perspective has further proposed a new complementary energy system to take advantage of locally available, clean and sustainable energy sources of wind and solar power, and have provided economic analyses. Meanwhile, this perspective has pointed out the potential barriers to promoting the new complementary energy system in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau region due to traditional habits, economic factors and policies. Finally, strategies for transitioning from yak dung to the proposed alternative energy system is discussed at the end. Successful energy transition for the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau region offers an important option to achieving many other sustainable development goals related to climate change, economic development, and environment. The perspective is expected to shed light on the development of sustainable energy in other developing region or countries in the world to address multiple societal goals.
Yan Zhang, Yu Zhao, Meng Gao, Xin Bo, and Chris P. Nielsen. 2021. “Air quality and health benefits from ultra-low emission control policy indicated by continuous emission monitoring: a case study in the Yangtze River Delta region, China.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 21, Pp. 6411–6430. Publisher's VersionAbstract
To evaluate the improved emission estimates from online monitoring, we applied the Models-3/CMAQ (Community Multiscale Air Quality) system to simulate the air quality of the Yangtze River Delta (YRD) region using two emission inventories with and without incorporated data from continuous emission monitoring systems (CEMSs) at coal-fired power plants (cases 1 and 2, respectively). The normalized mean biases (NMBs) between the observed and simulated hourly concentrations of SO2, NO2, O3, and PM2.5 in case 2 were −3.1 %, 56.3 %, −19.5 %, and −1.4 %, all smaller in absolute value than those in case 1 at 8.2 %, 68.9 %, −24.6 %, and 7.6 %, respectively. The results indicate that incorporation of CEMS data in the emission inventory reduced the biases between simulation and observation and could better reflect the actual sources of regional air pollution. Based on the CEMS data, the air quality changes and corresponding health impacts were quantified for different implementation levels of China's recent “ultra-low” emission policy. If the coal-fired power sector met the requirement alone (case 3), the differences in the simulated monthly SO2, NO2, O3, and PM2.5 concentrations compared to those of case 2, our base case for policy comparisons, would be less than 7 % for all pollutants. The result implies a minor benefit of ultra-low emission control if implemented in the power sector alone, which is attributed to its limited contribution to the total emissions in the YRD after years of pollution control (11 %, 7 %, and 2 % of SO2, NOX, and primary particle matter (PM) in case 2, respectively). If the ultra-low emission policy was enacted at both power plants and selected industrial sources including boilers, cement, and iron and steel factories (case 4), the simulated SO2, NO2, and PM2.5concentrations compared to the base case would be 33 %–64 %, 16 %–23 %, and 6 %–22 % lower, respectively, depending on the month (January, April, July, and October 2015). Combining CMAQ and the Integrated Exposure Response (IER) model, we further estimated that 305 deaths and 8744 years of life loss (YLL) attributable to PM2.5 exposure could be avoided with the implementation of the ultra-low emission policy in the power sector in the YRD region. The analogous values would be much higher, at 10 651 deaths and 316 562 YLL avoided, if both power and industrial sectors met the ultra-low emission limits. In order to improve regional air quality and to reduce human health risk effectively, coordinated control of multiple sources should be implemented, and the ultra-low emission policy should be substantially expanded to major emission sources in industries other than the power industry.
Haiyang Lin, Qiuwei Wu, Xinyu Chen, Xi Yang, Xinyang Guo, Jiajun Lv, Tianguang Lu, Shaojie Song, and Michael B. McElroy. 2021. “Economic and Technological Feasibility of Using Power-to-Hydrogen Technology under Higher Wind Penetration in China.” Renewable Energy, 173, Pp. 569-580. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Hydrogen can play a key role in facilitating the transition to a future deeply decarbonized energy system and can help accommodate higher penetrations of renewables in the power system. Arguments to justify this conclusion are supported by an analysis based on real-world data from China’s Western Inner Mongolia (WIM). The economic feasibility and decarbonization potential of renewable-based hydrogen production are discussed through an integrated power-hydrogen-emission analytical framework. The framework combines a high-resolution wind resource analysis with hourly simulation for the operation of power systems and hydrogen production considering technical and economic specifications on selection of three different types of electrolyzers and two operating modes. The results indicate that using wind power to produce hydrogen could provide a cost-competitive alternative (<2 $kg-1) to WIM’s current coal-dominated hydrogen manufacturing system, contributing at the same time to important reductions in wind curtailment and CO2 emissions. The levelized cost for hydrogen production is projected to decrease in the coming decade consistent with increases in wind power capacity and decreases in capital costs for electrolyzers. Lessons learned from the study can be applied to other regions and countries to explore possibilities for larger scale economically justified and carbon saving hydrogen production with renewables.