Researchers weed out the 5 per cent of ‘super polluters’ who create 75 per cent of energy sector emissions

Researchers at the University of Colorado analyzed emissions data from 29,000 fossil fuel power plants in 221 countries

Kelsie Sandoval
in New York
Friday 30 July 2021 20:20
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Just 5 per cent of the world’s power plants emit nearly 75 per cent of all energy sector emissions, according to a new study.

Researchers, from the University of Colorado at Boulder, aimed to measure how much energy each power plant emits. They analyzed 2018 emissions data from 29,000 fossil fuel power plants in 221 countries, mostly located in the global north.

The energy sector accounts for 73 per cent per cent of the global greenhouse gas emissions driving the climate crisis, the World Resources Institute reports.

The study’s authors were able to spot the top ten power plants that emit the most energy, all of which were coal-powered. Researchers said that this provides a starting point for swiftly tackling emissions.

“One of the challenges climate activists face is determining who exactly is to blame for the climate crisis,” Don Grant, co-author on the paper and fellow of the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute at the university, told Vice.

“Our study begins to address this problem in identifying super polluters.”

The researchers said there are several steps power plants can take to reduce energy emissions. Having a more efficient power plant and shutting off the plant permanently can reduce emissions from 49 per cent to 17 per cent.

The coal-powered Rogowiec in Poland is ranked as the top polluting power plant. However the study found that this is because it’s run so inefficiently, creating the highest emissions per unit of energy generated.

“Why these relatively inefficient plants are used so heavily is a topic ripe for future investigation,” the study authors wrote.

Other experts say switching to renewables altogether can reduce emissions.

While carbon emissions have increased globally from power plants, some regions contribute higher emissions than others.

Six of the ten highest-emitting plants are in China and East Asia, two are in India, and two in Europe.

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