Four paths for new power generation

Options exist in developing countries for lowering emissions and maintaining or improving economic growth.

by Kelly Sullivan


report released by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change concludes that developing countries can reduce emissions from power generation while maintaining or improving economic growth.

Current projections show a near tripling of carbon dioxide emissions from electric power in developing countries over the next 20 years, which represents 10 percent of all projected emissions. The role of developing countries in any eventual international protocol on climate change is one of the major outstanding issues in determining long-term equitable commitments and global participation in a climate change regime.

"The findings in this study - Developing Countries and Global Climate Change - represent a major step forward in the climate change debate," said Eileen Claussen, executive director, Pew Center on Global Climate Change. "This study shows that developing countries do not have to choose between protecting the environment and ensuring their economic future - they can do both."

The study was conducted for the Pew Center by RAND, a nonprofit corporation that seeks to improve public policy and decision-making through research and analysis.

The report assesses the $68 billion likely to be invested annually in new generation capacity. While "business as usual" trends nearly triple carbon dioxide emissions within 20 years, the report details four alternative paths that decrease carbon dioxide and other emissions relative to current expectations, without impeding economic growth.

First, including the costs of electricity delivery - not just generation - makes planning and investment decisions more efficient and makes distributed renewable energy more viable, decreasing carbon dioxide emissions by up to 2.5 percent.

Second, increasing privatization of the electricity sector could reduce carbon dioxide by up to one percent and boost economic benefits by up to five percent.

Third, increasing the use of natural gas and renewables could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by almost 25 percent with the same economic benefits.

Fourth, increasing the efficiency of electricity supply and demand could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to ten percent.

The findings were based on an aggregated analysis and may not hold for individual countries.

"The study findings offer a blueprint for progress," said Claussen. "But progress in the developing world will not build itself. The industrialized world has an important role to play in supporting reforms that will allow these benefits to accrue."

Claussen also noted that participation in the proposed "Clean Development Mechanism" established in the global warming treaty or other international mechanisms could increase the available up-front financing to accomplish these reforms.

This overview report will be followed by five detailed case studies examining electric power generation in Argentina, Brazil, China, India and the Republic of Korea.

The Pew Center was established in May 1998 by the Pew Charitable Trusts, one of the nation's largest philanthropies and an influential voice in efforts to improve the quality of America's environment. The Pew Center is conducting studies, launching public education efforts, promoting climate change solutions globally and working with businesses to develop marketplace solutions to reduce greenhouse gases.

The Pew Center includes the Business Environmental Leadership Council, which is composed of 21 major, largely Fortune 500 corporations all working with the Pew Center to address issues related to climate change. The companies do not contribute financially to the Pew Center - it is solely supported by contributions from charitable foundations.

  Contact: Kelly Sullivan/Heather Fass (202) 289-5900