Cleaner power is possible for China’s manufacturing industry

June 14, 2023

Three major environmental concerns in China are air quality, water scarcity and carbon emissions, particularly from coal.

Now, Princeton researchers have zeroed in on an often-overlooked piece of the energy puzzle that could drastically improve all three: the energy mix at industrial hubs.

China has more than 2,500 industrial hubs, clusters of facilities that process raw materials and produce consumer goods, and they are largely powered by coal. But what if those hubs were powered by clean energy?

A team of five Princeton engineers and policy experts led by Denise Mauzerall studied 850 industrial hubs and found that using a mix of electricity from the grid and on-site green energy, the hubs could meet their energy needs and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40%.

“Industrial parks can be a pioneer for low-carbon policies in practice,” said energy and infrastructure expert Yang Guo.

The changes would prevent an estimated 42,000 premature deaths every year from air pollution.

"A clean energy transition in industrial hubs can provide environmental, health and economic benefits,” said Mauzerall.

This piece originally appeared in the June 2023 issue of Princeton's environmental newsletter, The Charge.

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