BIT’s important research achievements in promoting carbon neutrality by electrification transition

News Source & Photographer: School of Management and Economics

Editor: News Agency of BIT

Translator: Wen Lin

Reviewer: Guo Yating

Recently, with the cooperation between research teams of Prof. Wang Zhaohua, Beijing Institute of Technology and Prof. Shan Yuli, Birmingham University, UK, the research paper entitled "Trade-offs between direct emission reduction and inter-sectoral additional emissions: Evidence from the electrification transition in China's transport department" was published in Environmental Science & Technology, a top journal in the environmental field, in the form of Policy Analysis and was selected as its cover paper. In this paper, Prof. Wang Zhaohua, School of Management and Economics of Beijing Institute of Technology, is the first author. Prof. Wang Bo, Associate Professor Li Hao and Prof. Shan Yuli, Birmingham University, UK, are the co-corresponding authors. Beijing Institute of Technology is the first signatory unit.

Electrification transition, which means replacing coal, oil and gas with electricity, is an important policy and method in China to reduce emissions of greenhouse gas like CO2. However, whether electrification transition can reduce CO2 emission successfully or not depends heavily on the cleanliness degree of electric power structure. Otherwise, the implementation of electrification transition policy may result in more CO2 emissions, leading to an unwanted phenomenon that the higher the degree of electrification is, the more CO2 emissions will be. Therefore, research team of Prof. Wang Zhaohua independently designed a policy-oriented SEED-TPM model, an electrification transition model for transportation sector, and collected and prepared detailed technical parameters of multi-sectoral electrification transition. Simultaneously, the team coupled the SEED-TPM model with the internationally authoritative GCAM model, combined the SSP (Shared Socio-economic Pathways) scenario with the policy indicators and technical parameters of China's electrification transition, and constructed the SSP scenario of China's electrification transition. Taking the transportation sector as an example, the team explored the direct emission reduction effect and intersectoral indirect emission impact brought by different electrification levels in all transportation sectors.

Fig. 1 Research framework & technical route

The result shows that the implementation of electrification transition in the transportation sector will lead to a substantial reduction of CO2 emissions in China's transportation sector during 2025-2075, equivalent to 19.8%-42% of the global annual emissions. However, considering the extra CO2 emissions generated by the energy supply sector (especially the electric power sector), electrification transition will not only fail to achieve CO2 emission reduction, but will also cause additional increase in CO2 emissions when the electric power sector has not yet undergone clean transition. Specifically, electrification transition will lead to a 5.1-6.7 times increase in China's electricity demand compared to the base year, and the resulting CO2 emissions will far exceed the emission reduction achieved by electrification transition in the transportation sector. The study found that the electrification of the transportation sector will produce robust emission reductions only when the electric power sector undergoes a deep clean transition and clean energy becomes the main source of electricity generation. Therefore, the study argues that the electrification transition policy is not an once-and-done solution, and only by vigorously promoting the electrification transition policy and implementing a variety of combined policies, especially matching or even realizing the cleanliness of the energy supply sector in advance, can it really play a role in reducing emissions.

Fig. 2   direct CO2 emissions and cross-department extra CO2 emissions of entire electrification transition in the transportation sector under multiple scenarios

The above research work is a phased achievement of key projects of National Natural Science Foundation of China.

Original information and website address:

Zhaohua Wang, Hongzhi Zhang, Bo Wang, Hao Li, Junhua Ma, Bin Zhang, Chengxiang Zhuge, and Yuli Shan. Trade-Offs between Direct Emission Reduction and Intersectoral Additional Emissions: Evidence from the Electrification Transition in China’s Transport Sector. Environmental Science & Technology Article ASAP DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.3c00556.