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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Energy and CO2 implications of decarbonization strategies for China beyond efficiency: Modeling 2050 maximum renewable resources and accelerated electrification impacts


Energy efficiency has played an important role in helping China achieve its domestic and international energy and climate change mitigation targets, but more significant near-term actions to decarbonize are needed to help China and the world meet the Paris Agreement goals. Accelerating electrification and maximizing supply-side and demand-side renewable adoption are two recent strategies being considered in China, but few bottom-up modeling studies have evaluated the potential near-term impacts of these strategies across multiple sectors. To fill this research gap, we use a bottom-up national end-use model that integrates energy supply and demand systems and conduct scenario analysis to evaluate even lower CO2 emissions strategies and subsequent pathways for China to go beyond cost-effective efficiency and fuel switching. We find that maximizing non-conventional electric and renewable technologies can help China peak its national CO2 emissions as early as 2025, with significant additional CO2 emission reductions on the order of 7 Gt CO2 annually by 2050. Beyond potential CO2 reductions from power sector decarbonization, significant potential lies in fossil fuel displaced by renewable heat in industry. These results suggest accelerating the utilization of non-conventional electric and renewable technologies present additional CO2 reduction opportunities for China, but new policies and strategies are needed to change technology choices in the demand sectors. Managing the pace of electrification in tandem with the pace of decarbonization of the power sector will also be crucial to achieving CO2 reductions from the power sector in a scenario of increased electrification.

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