A new study finds that only a handful of the world’s power plants, all of which are coal-fired, are responsible for a large percentage of carbon emissions from the energy sector.
What is Happening?
- Only 5% of all power plants globally are responsible for 73% of the energy-sector carbon emissions, according to a new study published in the Environmental Research Letters. All 5% of which are coal-fired power plants.
- Researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder have analysed data from 29,000 fossil fuel power plants in 221 countries from the year 2018, and learned about the top emitters in the world.
- “One of the challenges climate activists face is determining who exactly is to blame for the climate crisis,” said Don Grant to Vice, coauthor on the paper and professor of sociology and fellow of the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute at the University of Colorado Boulder. “Our study begins to address this problem in identifying super polluters.”
- The study named that power plant in Rogowiec, Poland to be a top emitter in the world. Its facility produced 20 percent of the nation’s electricity but contributed 38 million tons of CO2 in 2018.
- Six of the top 10 highest-emitting plants are located in China and in East Asia; the rest are in India and Europe.
- These 10 “super emitters” are all coal-powered, located in the global north and “they all operate inefficiently for the amount of energy they generate”.
- Outside of the top 10, the biggest polluting power plants were coal-powered plants in the eastern regions of the US.
- Researchers in the study have found that boosting efficiency at hyper-polluting power plants would cut total global power sector emissions by 25%. This could be done by switching from coal to oil or gas – which could lower emission by 30% – or installing carbon capture technology and storage systems, which could almost halve current carbon emission levels.
- “Policies aimed at improving the environmental performance of “super polluters” are effective strategies for transitioning to decarbonised energy systems,” wrote the authors.
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