Air pollutant emissions from coal-fired power plants in China over the past two decades

Abstract China is the largest coal producer and consumer in the world, and coal-fired power plants are among its major sources of air pollutants. The Chinese government has implemented various stringent measures to reduce air pollutant emissions over the past two decades. National statistical data, emission inventories, and satellite observations indicate that air pollutant emissions from coal-fired power plants have been effectively controlled. Field measurements at coal-fired power plants can provide valuable information about the long-term trend of air pollutant emissions and the driving factors. In this study, we evaluated air pollutant emissions from 401 units at 308 coal-fired power plants. An appreciable reduction in air pollutant concentrations and emission factors from coal-fired power plants in China is observed over the past two decades. The drivers for this trend from the perspective of policy making, application of removal technologies, tightening of emission standards, technological improvement, monitoring systems, and economic measures are discussed. Currently, concentrations of typical air pollutants from coal-fired power plants in China are lower than those in Japan, Germany, and the US. This can be attributed to the policies and lenient emission standards for power plants in these countries. The technological improvement of air pollution control devices is the key factor that has led to reductions in air pollutant emissions in China. China has built the largest system of clean coal-fired power plants in the world.
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