Solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity generation can greatly reduce both air pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil fuel electricity generation. The Chinese government plans to greatly scale up solar PV installation between now and 2030. However, different PV development pathways will influence the range of air quality and climate benefits. Benefits depend on how much electricity generated from PV is integrated into power grids and the type of power plant displaced. Using a coal-intensive power sector projection as the base case, we estimate the climate, air quality, and related human health benefits of various 2030 PV deployment scenarios. We use the 2030 government goal of 400 GW installed capacity but vary the location of PV installation and the extent of inter-provincial PV electricity transmission. We find that deploying distributed PV in the east with inter-provincial transmission maximizes potential CO2 reductions and air quality-related health benefits (4.2% and 1.2% decrease in national total CO2 emissions and air pollution-related premature deaths compared to the base case, respectively). Deployment in the east with inter-provincial transmission results in the largest benefits because it maximizes displacement of the dirtiest coal-fired power plants and minimizes PV curtailment, which is more likely to occur without inter-provincial transmission. We further find that the maximum co-benefits achieved with deploying PV in the east and enabling inter-provincial transmission are robust under various maximum PV penetration levels in both provincial and regional grids. We find large potential benefits of policies that encourage distributed PV deployment and facilitate inter-provincial PV electricity transmission in China.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
- Environmental Science(all)
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- air pollution
- climate change
- solar photovoltaics (PV)