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Assessment of geographical distribution of photovoltaic generation in China for a low carbon electricity transition

Liu, Feng, Lv, Tao
Journal of cleaner production 2019 v.212 pp. 655-665
carbon, carbon dioxide, carbon markets, electric energy consumption, electricity, emissions, energy, fossil fuels, geographical distribution, issues and policy, life cycle assessment, solar collectors, solar energy, China
Solar power is considered as one of the most promising low-carbon alternatives to fossil fuels for future electricity systems. The historical diffusion pattern of solar power in China is consistent with other energy generation approaches, which emphasizes the function of energy supply. Given that the electricity system in China is experiencing a low-carbon transition, the new installed capacity should be located in regions with an urgent need for carbon reduction, as well as good life-cycle performance. Therefore, indicators of carbon dioxide emissions and the carbon intensity of electricity consumption are employed to analyze the provincial demand for renewable power. Additionally, the life-cycle performance of solar power is assessed, grounded in the concepts of energy return on energy and carbon investments. On this basis, a comprehensive ranking of the provinces of China is provided. By considering carbon intensity as an indicator to assess the lifecycle performance of solar power, the results show that the distributed photovoltaics are suitable for installation in Shandong (1.06) and Jiangsu (0.98), which basically match the current layout, while some adjustments to the future distribution of centralized photovoltaic systems in China should be made, where Qinghai (0.45) and Ningxia (0.58) are not suitable as possible locations for newly installed capacity. Some policy implications for the future empowerment of photovoltaic generation in China are provided, including adequate life-cycle assessment, carbon pricing and financial subsidy.