Lu, Xi

Xi Lu, Liang Cao, Haikun Wang, Wei Peng, Jia Xing, Shuxiao Wang, Siyi Cai, Bo Shen, Qing Yang, Chris P. Nielsen, and Michael B. McElroy. Submitted. “Gasification of coal and biomass: a net negative-carbon power source for environmental friendly electricity generation in China.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Qing Yang, Xiaoyan Zhang, Hewen Zhou, Chris P Nielsen, Jiashuo Li, Xi Lu, Haiping Yang, and Hanping Chen. Submitted. “A system analysis of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of a biomass gasification power plant in China.” Journal of Cleaner Production.
Xi Lu and Michael B. McElroy. 2017. “Global potential for wind generated electricity.” In Wind Energy Engineering: A Handbook for Onshore and Offshore Wind Turbines, edited by Trevor M. Letcher. Amsterdam: Elsevier. Publisher's Version
Haikun Wang, Yanxu Zhang, Xi Lu, Weimo Zhu, Chris P. Nielsen, Jun Bi, and Michael B. McElroy. 2017. “Trade‐driven relocation of air pollution and health impacts in China.” Nature Communications, 8, 738. Publisher's Version
Challenges faced by China compared with the US in developing wind power
Xi Lu, Michael B. McElroy, Wei Peng, Shiyang Liu, Chris P. Nielsen, and Haikun Wang. 2016. “Challenges faced by China compared with the US in developing wind power.” Nature Energy, 1, 6. Publisher's VersionAbstract

In the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC held in Paris in December 2015, China pledged to peak its carbon emissions and increase non-fossil energy to 20% by 2030 or earlier. Expanding renewable capacity, especially wind power, is a central strategy to achieve these climate goals. Despite greater capacity for wind installation in China compared to the US (145.1 versus 75.0 GW), less wind electricity is generated in China (186.3 versus 190.9 TWh). Here, we quantify the relative importance of the key factors accounting for the unsatisfactory performance of Chinese wind farms. Different from the results in earlier qualitative studies, we find that the difference in wind resources explains only a small fraction of the present China-US difference in wind power output (17.9% in 2012); the curtailment of wind power, differences in turbine quality, and delayed connection to the grid are identified as the three primary factors (respectively 49.3%, 50.2%, and 50.3% in 2012). Improvements in both technology choices and the policy environment are critical in addressing these challenges. 

Lu et al. is the cover article of this issue of Nature Energy. It is also subject of a "News and Views" commentary in the same issue, by Joanna I. Lewis.

Rong Xie, Clive E. Sabel, Xi Lu, Weimo Zhu, Haidong Kan, Chris P. Nielsen, and Haikun Wang. 2016. “Long-term trend and spatial pattern of PM2.5-induced premature mortality in China.” Environment International, 97, Pp. 180-186. Publisher's VersionAbstract

With rapid economic growth, China has witnessed increasingly frequent and severe haze and smog episodes over the past decade, posing serious health impacts to the Chinese population, especially those in densely populated city clusters. Quantification of the spatial and temporal variation of health impacts attributable to ambient fine particulate matter (PM2.5) has important implications for China's policies on air pollution control. In this study, we evaluated the spatial distribution of premature deaths in China between 2000 and 2010 attributable to ambient PM2.5 in accord with the Global Burden of Disease based on a high resolution population density map of China, satellite retrieved PM2.5 concentrations, and provincial health data. Our results suggest that China's anthropogenic ambient PM2.5 led to 1,255,400 premature deaths in 2010, 42% higher than the level in 2000. Besides increased PM2.5 concentration, rapid urbanization has attracted large population migration into the more developed eastern coastal urban areas, intensifying the overall health impact. In addition, our analysis implies that health burdens were exacerbated in some developing inner provinces with high population density (e.g. Henan, Anhui, Sichuan) because of the relocation of more polluting and resource-intensive industries into these regions. In order to avoid such national level environmental inequities, China's regulations on PM2.5 should not be loosened in inner provinces. Furthermore policies should create incentive mechanisms that can promote transfer of advanced production and emissions control technologies from the coastal regions to the interior regions.

Meiyu Guo, Xi Lu, Chris P. Nielsen, Michael B. McElroy, Wenrui Shi, Yuntian Chen, and Xuan Yu. 2016. “Prospects for shale gas production in China: Implications for water demand.” Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 66, December, Pp. 742-750. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Development of shale gas resources is expected to play an important role in China's projected transition to a low-carbon energy future. The question arises whether the availability of water could limit this development. The paper considers a range of scenarios to define the demand for water needed to accommodate China's projected shale gas production through 2020. Based on data from the gas field at Fuling, the first large-scale shale gas field in China, it is concluded that the water intensity for shale gas development in China (water demand per unit lateral length) is likely to exceed that in the US by about 50%. Fuling field would require a total of 39.9–132.9 Mm3 of water to achieve full development of its shale gas, with well spacing assumed to vary between 300 and 1000 m. To achieve the 2020 production goal set by Sinopec, the key Chinese developer, water consumption is projected to peak at 7.22 Mm3 in 2018. Maximum water consumption would account for 1% and 3%, respectively, of the available water resource and annual water use in the Fuling district. To achieve China's nationwide shale gas production goal set for 2020, water consumption is projected to peak at 15.03 Mm3 in 2019 in a high-use scenario. It is concluded that supplies of water are adequate to meet demand in Fuling and most projected shale plays in China, with the exception of localized regions in the Tarim and Jungger Basins.

Ning Zhang, Xi Lu, Chris P Nielsen, Michael B. McElroy, Xinyu Chen, Yu Deng, and Chongqing Kang. 2016. “Reducing curtailment of wind electricity in China by employing electric boilers for heat and pumped hydro for energy storage.” Applied Energy, 184, Pp. 987-994. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Accommodating variable wind power poses a critical challenge for electric power systems that are heavily dependent on combined heat and power (CHP) plants, as is the case for north China. An improved unit-commitment model is applied to evaluate potential benefits from pumped hydro storage (PHS) and electric boilers (EBs) in West Inner Mongolia (WIM), where CHP capacity is projected to increase to 33.8 GW by 2020. A business-as-usual (BAU) reference case assumes deployment of 20 GW of wind capacity. Compared to BAU, expanding wind capacity to 40 GW would allow for a reduction in CO2 emissions of 33.9 million tons, but at a relatively high cost of US$25.3/ton, reflecting primarily high associated curtailment of wind electricity (20.4%). A number of scenarios adding PHS and/or EBs combined with higher levels of wind capacity are evaluated. The best case indicates that a combination of PHS (3.6 GW) and EBs (6.2 GW) together with 40 GW of wind capacity would reduce CO2 emissions by 43.5 million tons compared to BAU, and at a lower cost of US$16.0/ton. Achieving this outcome will require a price-incentive policy designed to ensure the profitability of both PHS and EB facilities.

Yu Deng, Shenghe Liu, Jianming Cai, Xi Lu, and Chris P Nielsen. 2015. “Spatial pattern and evolution of Chinese provincial population: Methods and empirical study.” Journal of Geographical Sciences, 25, 12, Pp. 1507-1520. Publisher's VersionAbstract

China has been experiencing an unprecedented urbanization process. In 2011, China’s urban population reached 691 million with an urbanization rate of 51.27%. Urbanization level is expected to increase to 70% in China in 2030, reflecting the projection that nearly 300 million people would migrate from rural areas to urban areas over this period. At the same time, the total fertility rate of China’s population is declining due to the combined effect of economic growth, environmental carrying capacity, and modern social consciousness. The Chinese government has loosened its “one-child policy” gradually by allowing childbearing couples to have the second child as long as either of them is from a one-child family. In such rapidly developing country, the natural growth and spatial migration will consistently reshape spatial pattern of population. An accurate prediction of the future spatial pattern of population and its evolution trend are critical to key policy-making processes and spatial planning in China including urbanization, land use development, ecological conservation and environmental protection. In this paper, a top-down method is developed to project the spatial distribution of China’s future population with considerations of both natural population growth at provincial level and the provincial migration from 2010 to 2050. Building on this, the spatial pattern and evolution trend of Chinese provincial population are analyzed. The results suggested that the overall spatial pattern of Chinese population will be unlikely changed in next four decades, with the east area having the highest population density and followed by central area, northeast and west area. Four provinces in the east, Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin and Jiangsu, will remain the top in terms of population density in China, and Xinjiang, Qinghai and Tibet will continue to have the lowest density of population. We introduced an index system to classify the Chinese provinces into three categories in terms of provincial population densities: Fast Changing Populated Region (FCPR), Low Changing Populated Region (LCPR) and Inactive Populated Region (IPR). In the FCPR, China’s population is projected to continue to concentrate in net immigration leading type (NILT) area where receives nearly 99% of new accumulated floating population. Population densities of Shanghai, Beijing, Zhejiang will peak in 2030, while the population density in Guangdong will keep increasing until 2035. Net emigration leading type (NELT) area will account for 75% of emigration population, including Henan, Anhui, Chongqing and Hubei. Natural growth will play a dominant role in natural growth leading type area, such as Liaoning and Shandong, because there will be few emigration population. Due to the large amount of moving-out labors and gradually declining fertility rates, population density of the LCPR region exhibits a downward trend, except for Fujian and Hainan. The majority of the western provinces will be likely to remain relatively low population density, with an average value of no more than 100 persons per km2.

Haikun Wang, Yanxia Zhang, Xi Lu, Chris P Nielsen, and Jun Bi. 2015. “Understanding China's carbon dioxide emissions from both production and consumption perspectives.” Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 52, Pp. 189-200. Publisher's VersionAbstract

China is now the largest emitter of CO2 in the world, having contributed nearly half of the global increase in carbon emissions between 1980 and 2010. The existing literature on China’s carbon emissions has focused on two dimensions: the amount of CO2 emitted within China’s geographical boundaries (a production-based perspective), and the drivers of, and responsibility for, these emissions (a consumption-based perspective). The current study begins with a comprehensive review of China’s CO2 emissions, and then analyzes their driving forces from both consumption and production perspectives, at both national and provincial levels. It is concluded that China’s aggregate national CO2 emissions from fossil fuel consumption and cement production maintained high growth rates during 2000-2010. National emissions reached 6.8–7.3 billion tons in 2007, nearly 25% of which were caused by net exports (i.e., exports minus imports) to other countries. However, emission characteristics varied significantly among different regions and provinces, and considerable emission leakage from the developed eastern regions to inland and western areas of the country was found. The objectives of China’s policies should therefore be broadened from continued improvement of energy efficiency to accelerating regional technology transfer and preventing mere relocation of carbon-intensive economic activities from developed coastal regions to less developed, inland provinces. To rapidly and effectively cut down China’s carbon emissions, moreover, its energy supply should be aggressively decarbonized by promoting renewable and low carbon energy sources.

Junling Huang, Xi Lu, and Michael B. McElroy. 2014. “Meteorologically defined limits to reduction in the variability of outputs from a coupled wind farm system in the Central US.” Renewable Energy, 62, February, Pp. 331–340. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Studies suggest that onshore wind resources in the contiguous US could readily accommodate present and anticipated future US demand for electricity. The problem with the output from a single wind farm located in any particular region is that it is variable on time scales ranging from minutes to days posing difficulties for incorporating relevant outputs into an integrated power system. The high frequency (shorter than once per day) variability of contributions from individual wind farms is determined mainly by locally generated small-scale boundary layer. The low frequency variability (longer than once per day) is associated with the passage of transient waves in the atmosphere with a characteristic time scale of several days. Using 5 years of assimilated wind data, we show that the high frequency variability of wind-generated power can be significantly reduced by coupling outputs from 5 to 10 wind farms distributed uniformly over a ten state region of the Central US in this study. More than 95% of the remaining variability of the coupled system is concentrated at time scales longer than a day, allowing operators to take advantage of multi-day weather forecasts in scheduling projected contributions from wind.

This paper is from a series investigating and comparing the prospects for low- and non-carbon power generation in China and the U.S.

Xi Lu, Michael B. McElroy, Xinyu Chen, and Chongqing Kang. 2014. “Opportunity for offshore wind to reduce future demand for coal-fired power plants in China with consequent savings in emissions of CO2.” Environmental Science & Technology, 48, 24, Pp. 14764–14771. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Although capacity credits for wind power have been embodied in power systems in the U.S. and Europe, the current planning framework for electricity in China continues to treat wind power as a non-dispatchable source with zero contribution to firm capacity. This study adopts a rigorous reliability model for the electric power system evaluating capacity credits that should be recognized for offshore wind resources supplying power demands for Jiangsu, China. Jiangsu is an economic hub located in the Yangtze River delta accounting for 10% of the total electricity consumed in China. Demand for electricity in Jiangsu is projected to increase from 331 TWh in 2009 to 800 TWh by 2030. Given a wind penetration level of 60% for the future additional Jiangsu power supply, wind resources distributed along the offshore region of five coastal provinces in China (Shandong, Jiangsu, Shanghai, Zhejiang and Fujian) should merit a capacity credit of 12.9%, the fraction of installed wind capacity that should be recognized to displace coal-fired systems without violating the reliability standard. In the high-coal-price scenario, with 60% wind penetration, reductions in CO2 emissions relative to a business as usual reference could be as large as 200.2 million tons of CO2 or 51.8% of the potential addition, with a cost for emissions avoided of $29.0 per ton.


Xinyu Chen, Xi Lu, Michael B. McElroy, Chris P Nielsen, and Chongqing Kang. 2014. “Synergies of wind power and electrified space heating: A case study for Beijing.” Environmental Science & Technology, 48, 3, Pp. 2016–2024. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Demands for electricity and energy to supply heat are expected to expand by 71% and 47%, respectively, for Beijing in 2020 relative to 2009. If the additional electricity and heat are supplied solely by coal as is the current situation, annual emissions of CO2 may be expected to increase by 59.6% or 99 million tons over this interval. Assessed against this business as usual (BAU) background, the present study indicates that significant reductions in emissions could be realized using wind-generated electricity to provide a source of heat, employed either with heat pumps or with electric thermal storage (ETS) devices. Relative to BAU, reductions in CO2 with heat pumps assuming 20% wind penetration could be as large as 48.5% and could be obtained at a cost for abatement of as little as $15.6 per ton of avoided CO2. Even greater reductions, 64.5%, could be realized at a wind penetration level of 40% but at a higher cost, $29.4 per ton. Costs for reduction of CO2 using ETS systems are significantly higher, reflecting the relatively low efficiency for conversion of coal to power to heat.

Xi Lu, Michael B. McElroy, Chris P Nielsen, Xinyu Chen, and Junling Huang. 2013. “Optimal integration of offshore wind power for a steadier, environmentally friendlier, supply of electricity in China.” Energy Policy, 62, Pp. 131–138. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Demand for electricity in China is concentrated to a significant extent in its coastal provinces. Opportunities for production of electricity by on-shore wind facilities are greatest, however, in the north and west of the country. Using high resolution wind data derived from the GEOS-5 assimilation, this study shows that investments in off-shore wind facilities in these spatially separated regions (Bohai-Bay or BHB, Yangtze-River Delta or YRD, Pearl-River Delta or PRD) could make an important contribution to overall regional demand for electricity in coastal China. An optimization analysis indicates that hour-to-hour variability of outputs from a combined system can be minimized by investing 24% of the power capacity in BHB, 30% in YRD and 47% in PRD. The analysis suggests that about 28% of the overall off-shore wind potential could be deployed as base load power replacing coal-fired system with benefits not only in terms of reductions in CO2 emissions but also in terms of improvements in regional air quality. The interconnection of off-shore wind resources contemplated here could be facilitated by China's 12th-five-year plan to strengthen inter-connections between regional electric-power grids.

Xi Lu, Michael B. McElroy, Gang Wu, and Chris P Nielsen. 2012. “Accelerated reduction of SO2 emissions from the US power sector triggered by changing prices of natural gas.” Environmental Science and Technology, 46, 14, Pp. 7882-7889. Publisher's Version

This paper is from a series investigating and comparing the prospects for low- and non-carbon power generation in China and the U.S.

Gang Wu, Yi-Ming Wei, Chris P Nielsen, Xi Lu, and Michael B. McElroy. 2012. “A dynamic programming model of China's strategic petroleum reserve: General strategy and the effect of emergencies.” Energy Economics, 34, 4, Pp. 1234-1243. Publisher's Version
Xi Lu, Jackson Salovaara, and Michael B. McElroy. 2012. “Implications of the recent reductions in natural gas prices for emissions of CO2 from the US power sector.” Environmental Science & Technology, 46, 5, Pp. 3014–3021. Publisher's Version

This paper is from a series investigating and comparing the prospects for low- and non-carbon power generation in China and the U.S.; click here ( to see coverage in the Harvard Gazette.

Xi Lu, Michael B. McElroy, and Nora Sluzas. 2011. “Costs for integrating wind into the future ERCOT system with related costs for savings in CO2 emissions.” Environmental Science and Technology, 45, 7, Pp. 3160-3166. Publisher's Version

This is from a series of papers investigating and comparing the prospects for low- and non-carbon power generation in China and the U.S.

Xi Lu, Jeremy Tchou, Michael B. McElroy, and Chris P Nielsen. 2011. “The impact of production tax credits on the profitable production of electricity from wind in the U.S..” Energy Policy, 39, 7, Pp. 4207-4214. Publisher's Version

This paper is from a series investigating and comparing the prospects for low- and non-carbon power generation in China and the U.S.

Xi Lu. 2010. “Electricity from Wind: Opportunities and Challenges.” School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University.