Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the Role of Power Sector

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In 2006, the total global emissions of GHGs from the combustion of fossil fuel were 28 billion tonnes. U.S. was the single largest emitter of GHG emissions, and it contributed slightly over one-fifth of the total global emissions, closely followed by China (20%). India and Mexico contributed 4.5% and 1.5% respectively [4].

Emissions of CO2 from fossil fuel combustion, cement manufacturing and gas flaring from US appeared to be growing at a slower rate than that of China in 2005. GHG emissions show a sharp rise for China, a steady increase for India, and slow rate of growth for Mexico (Fig. 11.2). Recent studies suggest that GHG emissions from China surpassed that of the US in 2006, and China is now the largest emitting nation [5]. Largest share of GHG emissions in China comes from combustion of coal (Fig. 11.3).

2000 1600

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1 800

1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005

Fig. 11.2 National CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning, cement manufacture, and gas flaring (1996-2005) (Marland et al. [2])

1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005

Fig. 11.2 National CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning, cement manufacture, and gas flaring (1996-2005) (Marland et al. [2])

2006 Sources Co2 Emissions
Fig. 11.3 Anthropogenic sources of CO2 emissions in China (Source: Gregg et al. [5])

According to IEA's reference case scenario - which provides a baseline picture of how global energy markets would evolve if governments make no changes to their existing policies and measures - the global primary energy needs are projected to grow by 55% between 2005 and 2030, with China and India expected to account for 45% of this increase [6]. Majority of this increase in primary energy demand comes from economic and population growth. A large share of the global increase in primary energy demand will likely be met by increasing the production and consumption of coal for power generation - particularly in China and India. The power sectors are the main consumers of coal in China and India, and are the largest sectors responsible for GHG emissions in both countries. Electric power generation in Mexico contributed to 31% of the total GHG emissions in 2004 [7]. In Mexico, the current share of coal in the electricity generation is relatively small. However, in order to diversify its energy supply portfolio and reduce dependence on oil and natural gas, Mexico is striving to make additions to its coal-fired generation capacity. This could further increase its GHG emissions from power generation sector.

In addition to their contribution to global climate change, coal-based power plants significantly impact the local environment. Direct impacts resulting from construction and ongoing operations include [8]:

• flue gas emissions - particulates, sulfur oxides, nitrous oxides, and other hazardous chemicals;

• pollution of local streams, rivers and groundwater from effluent discharges and percolation of hazardous materials from the stored flyash;

• degradation of land used for storing flyash; and

• noise pollution during operation.

Indirect impacts of these plants result mainly from coal mining and include: degradation and destruction of land, water, forests and habitats; and displacement, rehabilitation and resettlement of people affected by mining operations.

Hence, while reducing GHG emissions from these countries is important, it is also critical that the countries reduce the local environmental impacts of their power sectors.

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