Closing the dirtiest power plants could save millions of lives


If the most polluting power plants in the world are shut down, billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide will be released into the atmosphere. But even six million lives are saved, according to new research.

Electricity production is estimated to be behind about one-seventh of the harmful air pollutants that humans are exposed to today (including those that contain PM2.5 particles, ie particles with a diameter up to 2.5 micrometers that belong to one of the air pollutants that cause the greatest health problems ). This production will also account for just over 40 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions that can be linked to climate change in recent years.

The number of deaths linked to air pollution is also expected to increase as our planet warms. However, shutting down the world’s electricity-producing power plants, which are the worst emitters, can save many lives, according to new research.

An international research group has developed computer models to investigate the link between deaths and carbon dioxide emissions and air pollution at power plants that use fossil fuels or biomass, and the connection between these and different energy scenarios linked to the climate.

According to their calculations, just over 92 per cent of premature deaths linked to emissions from power plants in 2010-2018 must have occurred in countries with low incomes or in emerging economies, such as China and India. Such deaths are expected to increase in the future, as the demand for energy grows.

Coal-fired power plant with 2.4 deaths per megawatt

Researchers have listed the highest percentage of premature deaths (deaths per megawatt), by region and size of coal-fired power plants. Five of the 15 establishments on the list are located in India. The one at the top of the list has a capacity of between 50 and 100 megawatts, and is said to have a connection to 2.4 deaths per megawatt. Of the larger plants on the list (which have a capacity of over 600 megawatts), the worst should be able to be connected to just under 1.5 deaths per megawatt.

If we manage to avoid a global warming of 1.5 degrees and shut down the most emitting power plants, six million lives could be saved in 2010–2050, and future emissions of 43 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide could be avoided, according to the study.

Although demand for fossil-free electricity and electricity from power plants based on biomass is increasing, demand for electricity produced from coal-fired power plants is also expected to remain for some time. In their calculations, the researchers have therefore assumed, among other things, that coal-fired power plants that are shut down prematurely can be replaced with newer coal-fired power plants that are more energy efficient and cause less emissions than the old ones.

Studien ”Health co-benefits of climate change mitigation depend on strategic power plant retirements and pollution controls” has been published in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change.


Source: Nyteknik – Senaste nytt by www.nyteknik.se.

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