Quantifying coal power plant responses to tighter SO2 emissions standards in China

Karplus, Valerie J.; Zhang, Shuang; Almond, Douglas V.

We evaluate the impact of China’s new air pollution standards on sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions by comparing newly available data from Continuous Emissions Monitoring Systems (CEMS) at coal power plants with satellite measures. First, we show that following the July 2014 deadline for implementing tighter emissions standards, stack concentrations of SO2 reported by CEMS declined by 13.9%. Second, on average the ratios of the declines of SO2 measures in the satellite data and the CEMS data are about 0.5. However, the degree of correspondence between the two data sources varies by policy stringency, with weak correspondence found in key regions facing the toughest new limits. Third, large plants achieved compliance earlier than small (typically) power and heat cogeneration plants. To achieve continued air quality improvement, our results suggest a need for increased scrutiny of emissions data quality and monitoring practices and clear long-term targets.

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International and Public Affairs
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October 11, 2018