Almost Three-Quarters of All Fossil Fuel Power Plant Carbon Emissions Come From 5% of the Plants

ON 08/03/2021 AT 06:25 AM

A new study showed that the top five percent of all electrical power plants in the world are responsible for 73% of all carbon emissions produced when generating electricity.

Craig Station coal-fired power plant

The Craig Station coal-fired power plant, located in Craig, Colorado. It is power plants like these which produce most of the world's electrical power generation carbon emissions. Photo: Jimmy Thomas, CC

That is the conclusion of a just-published study from a team of researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder.

The analysis was led by Don Grant, Professor of Sociology and Fellow of the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute at the University of Colorado Boulder.

To come up with this data, the researchers gathered information on a total of 29,078 fossil fuel power plants located in 221 countries. Then they ranked them based on the most to the least pollution.

What they discovered was that the top five percent of those 29,078 plants produced almost three-quarters of all carbon emissions from the power production industry.

They also learned, with no big surprise, that every single plant in that top 5% list was a coal-fired power plant. The super-polluters were also among the most inefficient of power plants in the world.

The study then looked at what might happen if those top 5% of all plants were to improve their emissions profiles. They discovered that if those plants were to somehow improve their carbon emissions outputs to the average of all fossil fuel power plants, the total carbon emissions from fossil fuel power plants could drop by 25%. If the top 5% of the plants were changed over from coal as the power source to natural gas, the world’s emissions would plummet by 29.5%.

The researcher also took a hypothetical look at what carbon emissions might occur if those same top 5% polluting plants incorporated carbon capture and storage in their process. The researchers concluded global carbon emissions could drop by 48.9% if that were to happen.

The study also looked at where the top ten worst polluting coal—fired power plants in the world were located. They determined that South Korea has three of the worst offenders, followed by India with two of the top ten. Poland, Taiwan, China, Germany and Japan have one each of the remaining five most toxic coal-fired power plants in the world.