Nielsen, Chris P.

In Press
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. In Press. “Gasification of coal and biomass: a net carbon-negative power source for environmental-friendly electricity generation in China.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Yan Zhang, Xin Bo, Yu Zhao, and Chris P. Nielsen. Submitted. “Benefits of current and future policies on emissions of China's coal-fired power sector indicated by continuous emission monitoring.” Environmental Pollution.
Jing Cao, Mun S. Ho, Dale W. Jorgenson, and Chris P. Nielsen. Submitted. “China’s Emissions Trading System and an ETS-Carbon Tax Hybrid.” Energy Economics.
Sumeeta Srinivasan, Chenghe Guan, and Chris P. Nielsen. Submitted. “Built environment, income and travel behavior: Changes in Chengdu 2005-2016.” Sustainable Transport.
Archana Dayalu, J. William Munger, Yuxuan Wang, Steven C. Wofsy, Yu Zhao, Thomas Nehrkorn, Chris P. Nielsen, Michael B. McElroy, and Rachel Y.-W. Chang. Submitted. “Carbon dioxide emissions in northern China based on atmospheric observations from 2005 to 2009.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. Available on ACP Discussions
Xueli Zhao, Rong Ma, Xiaofang Wu, Chenghe Guan, Chris P. Nielsen, and Bo Zhang. Submitted. “Linking Agricultural GHG Emissions to Global Trade Network.” Environmental Science & Technology.
James K. Hammitt, Fangli Geng, Xiaoqi Guo, and Chris P. Nielsen. Submitted. “Valuing Mortality Risk in China: Comparing Stated-Preference Estimates from 2005 and 2016.” Journal of Risk & Uncertainty.
Chenghe Guan, Sumeeta Srinivasan, and Chris P. Nielsen. 2019. “Does neighborhood form influence low-carbon transportation in China?” Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, 67, Pp. 406-420. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Developing less auto-dependent urban forms and promoting low-carbon transportation (LCT) are challenges facing our cities. Previous literature has supported the association between neighborhood form and low-carbon travel behaviour. Several studies have attempted to measure neighborhood forms focusing on physical built-environment factors such as population and employment density and socio-economic conditions such as income and race. We find that these characteristics may not be sufficiently fine-grained to differentiate between neighborhoods in Chinese cities. This research assesses characteristics of neighborhood spatial configuration that may influence the choice of LCT modes in the context of dense Chinese cities. Urban-form data from 40 neighborhoods in Chengdu, China, along with a travel behaviour survey of households conducted in 2016, were used to generate several measures of land use diversity and accessibility for each neighborhood. We use principle component analysis (PCA) to group these variables into dimensions that could be used to classify the neighborhoods. We then estimate regression models of low-carbon mode choices such as walking, bicycling, and transit to better understand the significance of these built-environment differences at the neighbourhood level. We find that, first, members of households do choose to walk or bike or take transit to work provided there is relatively high population density and sufficient access to public transit and jobs. Second, land-use diversity alone was not found to be significant in affecting LCT mode choice. Third, the proliferation of gated communities was found to reduce overall spatial connectivity within neighborhoods and had a negative effect on choice of LCT.
Xingning Han, Xinyu Chen, Michael B. McElroy, Shiwu Liao, Chris P. Nielsen, and Jinyu Wen. 2019. “Modeling Formulation and Validation for Accelerated Simulation and Flexibility Assessment on Large Scale Power Systems under Higher Renewable Penetrations.” Applied Energy, 237, Pp. 145-154. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Deploying high penetration of variable renewables represents a critical pathway for decarbonizing the power sector. Hydro power (including pumped-hydro), batteries, and fast responding thermal units are essential in providing system flexibility at elevated renewable penetration. How to quantify the merit of flexibility from these sources in accommodating variable renewables, and to evaluate the operational costs considering system flexibility constraints have been central challenges for future power system planning. This paper presents an improved linear formulation of the unit commitment model adopting unit grouping techniques to expedite evaluation of the curtailment of renewables and operational costs for large-scale power systems. All decision variables in this formulation are continuous, and all chronological constraints are formulated subsequently. Tested based on actual data from a regional power system in China, the computational speed of the model is more than 20,000 times faster than the rigorous unit commitment model, with less than 1% difference in results. Hourly simulation for an entire year takes less than 3 min. The results demonstrate strong potential to apply the proposed model to long term planning related issues, such as flexibility assessment, wind curtailment analysis, and operational cost evaluation, which could set a methodological foundation for evaluating the optimal combination of wind, solar and hydro investments.
Archana Dayalu, William Munger, Steven Wofsy, Yuxuan Wang, Thomas Nehrkorn, Yu Zhao, Michael McElroy, Chris Nielsen, and Kristina Luus. 2018. “Assessing biotic contributions to CO2 fluxes in northern China using the Vegetation, Photosynthesis and Respiration Model (VPRM-CHINA) and observations from 2005 to 2009.” Biogeosciences, 15, Pp. 6713-6729. Publisher's Version
Xinyu Chen, Junling Huang, Qing Yang, Chris P. Nielsen, Dongbo Shi, and Michael B. McElroy. 2018. “Changing carbon content of Chinese coal and implications for emissions of CO2.” Journal of Cleaner Production, 194, Pp. 150-157. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The changing carbon content of coal consumed in China between 2002 and 2012 is quantified using information from the power sector. The carbon content decreased by 7.7% over this interval, the decrease particularly pronounced between 2007 and 2009. Inferences with respect to the changing carbon content of coal and the oxidation rate for its consumption, combined with the recent information on coal use in China, are employed to evaluate the trend in emissions of CO2. Emissions are estimated to have increased by 158% between 2002 and 2012, from 3.9 Gt y-1 to 9.2 Gt y-1. Our estimated emissions for 2005 are notably consistent with data reported by China in its “Second National Communication” to the UN (NDRC, 2012) and significantly higher than the estimation published recently in Nature. The difference is attributed, among other factors, to the assumption of a constant carbon content of coal in the latter study. The results indicate that CO2 emissions of China in 2005 reported by Second National Communication are more reliable to serve as the baseline for China's future carbon commitments (e.g. those in Paris Agreement of the UNFCCC). Discrepancies between national and provincial statistics on coal production and consumption are investigated and attributed primarily to anomalous reporting on interprovincial trade in four heavily industrialized provinces.

Changing carbon content paper.pdf
Qing Yang, Hewen Zhou, Xiaoyan Zhang, Chris P. Nielsen, Jiashuo Li, Xi Lu, Haiping Yang, and Hanping Chen. 2018. “Hybrid life-cycle assessment for energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of a typical biomass gasification power plant in China.” Journal of Cleaner Production, 205, Pp. 661-671. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Among biomass energy technologies which are treated as the promising way to mitigate critical energy crisis and global climate change, biomass gasification plays a key role given to its gaseous fuels especially syngas for distributed power plant. However, a system analysis for the energy saving and greenhouse gas emissions abatement potentials of gasification system has been directed few attentions. This study presents a system analysis that combines process and input-output analyses of GHG emissions and energy costs throughout the full chain of activities associated with biomass gasification. Incorporating agricultural production, industrial process and wastewater treatment which is always ignored, the energy inputs in life cycle are accounted for the first commercial biomass gasification power plant in China. Results show that the non-renewable energy cost and GHG emission intensity of the biomass gasification system are 0.163 MJ/MJ and 0.137 kg CO2-eq/MJ respectively, which reaffirm its advantages over coal-fired power plants in clean energy and environmental terms. Compared with other biomass energy processes, gasification performs well as its non-renewable energy cost and CO2 intensity are in the central ranges of those for all of these technologies. Construction of the plant is an important factor in the process’s non-renewable energy consumption, contributing about 44.48% of total energy use. Wastewater treatment is the main contributor to GHG emissions. The biomass gasification and associated wastewater treatment technologies have critical influence on the sustainability and renewability of biomass gasification. The results provide comprehensive analysis for biomass gasification performance and technology improvement potential in regulating biomass development policies for aiming to achieve sustainability globally.

Meng Gao, Gufran Beig, Shaojie Song, Hongliang Zhang, Jianlin Hu, Qi Ying, Fengchao Liang, Yang Liu, Haikun Wang, Xiao Lu, Tong Zhu, Gregory Carmichael, Chris P. Nielsen, and Michael B. McElroy. 2018. “The Impact of Power Generation Emissions on Ambient PM2.5 Pollution and Human Health in China and India.” Environment International, 121, Part 1, Pp. 250-259. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Emissions from power plants in China and India contain a myriad of fine particulate matter (PM2.5, PM≤2.5 micrometers in diameter) precursors, posing significant health risks among large, densely settled populations. Studies isolating the contributions of various source classes and geographic regions are limited in China and India, but such information could be helpful for policy makers attempting to identify efficient mitigation strategies. We quantified the impact of power generation emissions on annual mean PM2.5 concentrations using the state-of-the-art atmospheric chemistry model WRF-Chem (Weather Research Forecasting model coupled with Chemistry) in China and India. Evaluations using nationwide surface measurements show the model performs reasonably well. We calculated province-specific annual changes in mortality and life expectancy due to power generation emissions generated PM2.5 using the Integrated Exposure Response (IER) model, recently updated IER parameters from Global Burden of Disease (GBD) 2015, population data, and the World Health Organization (WHO) life tables for China and India. We estimate that 15 million (95% Confidence Interval (CI): 10 to 21 million) years of life lost can be avoided in China each year and 11 million (95% CI: 7 to 15 million) in India by eliminating power generation emissions. Priorities in upgrading existing power generating technologies should be given to Shandong, Henan, and Sichuan provinces in China, and Uttar Pradesh state in India due to their dominant contributions to the current health risks.


Xinyu Chen, Zhiwei Xu, Chris P Nielsen, and Michael B. McElroy. 2018. “Impacts of fleet types and charging modes for electric vehicles on emissions under different penetrations of wind power.” Nature Energy, 3, Pp. 413-421. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Current Chinese policy promotes the development of both electricity-propelled vehicles and carbon-free sources of power. Concern has been expressed that electric vehicles on average may emit more CO2 and conventional pollutants in China. Here, we explore the environmental implications of investments in different types of electric vehicle (public buses, taxis and private light-duty vehicles) and different modes (fast or slow) for charging under a range of different wind penetration levels. To do this, we take Beijing in 2020 as a case study and employ hourly simulation of vehicle charging behaviour and power system operation. Assuming the slow-charging option, we find that investments in electric private light-duty vehicles can result in an effective reduction in the emission of CO2 at several levels of wind penetration. The fast-charging option, however, is counter-productive. Electrifying buses and taxis offers the most effective option to reduce emissions of NO x , a major precursor for air pollution.
Xinyu Chen, Jiajun Lv, Michael B. McElroy, Xingning Han, Chris Nielsen, and Jinyu Wen. 2018. “Power system capacity expansion under higher penetration of renewables considering flexibility constraints and low carbon policies.” IEEE Transactions on Power Systems. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Deploying high penetration of variable renewables represents a critical pathway for deep decarbonizing the power sector. The conflict between their temporal variability and limited system flexibility has been largely ignored currently at planning stage. Here we present a novel capacity expansion model optimizing investment decisions and full-year, hourly power balances simultaneously, with considerations of storage technologies and policy constraints, such as carbon tax and renewable portfolio standards (RPS). Based on a computational efficient modeling formulation, all flexibility constrains (ramping, reserve, minimum output, minimal online/offline time) for the 8760-hour duration are incorporated. The proposed model is applied to the northwestern grid of China to examine the optimal composition and distribution of power investments with a wide range of renewable targets. Results indicate that the cost can increase moderately towards 45% of RPS, when properly designing the generation portfolio: prioritizing wind investments, distributing renewable investments more evenly and deploying more flexible mid-size coal and gas units. Reaching higher penetrations of renewables is expensive and the reductions of storage costs are critically important for an affordable low-carbon future. RPS or carbon taxes to reach a same target of emission reduction in China will result in similar overall costs but different generation mixes.
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
Yinmin Xia, Yu Zhao, and Chris P. Nielsen. 2016. “Benefits of China's efforts in gaseous pollutant control indicated by bottom-up emissions and satellite observations 2000-2014.” Atmospheric Environment, 136, July, Pp. 43-53. Publisher's VersionAbstract

To evaluate the effectiveness of national air pollution control policies, the emissions of SO2, NOX, CO and CO2 in China are estimated using bottom-up methods for the most recent 15-year period (2000–2014). Vertical column densities (VCDs) from satellite observations are used to test the temporal and spatial patterns of emissions and to explore the ambient levels of gaseous pollutants across the country. The inter-annual trends in emissions and VCDs match well except for SO2. Such comparison is improved with an optimistic assumption in emission estimation that the emission standards for given industrial sources issued after 2010 have been fully enforced. Underestimation of emission abatement and enhanced atmospheric oxidization likely contribute to the discrepancy between SO2 emissions and VCDs. As suggested by VCDs and emissions estimated under the assumption of full implementation of emission standards, the control of SO2 in the 12th Five-Year Plan period (12th FYP, 2011–2015) is estimated to be more effective than that in the 11th FYP period (2006–2010), attributed to improved use of flue gas desulfurization in the power sector and implementation of new emission standards in key industrial sources. The opposite was true for CO, as energy efficiency improved more significantly from 2005 to 2010 due to closures of small industrial plants. Iron & steel production is estimated to have had particularly strong influence on temporal and spatial patterns of CO. In contrast to fast growth before 2011 driven by increased coal consumption and limited controls, NOX emissions decreased from 2011 to 2014 due to the penetration of selective catalytic/non-catalytic reduction systems in the power sector. This led to reduced NO2 VCDs, particularly in relatively highly polluted areas such as the eastern China and Pearl River Delta regions. In developed areas, transportation is playing an increasingly important role in air pollution, as suggested by the increased ratio of NO2 to SO2 VCDs. For air quality in mega cities, the inter-annual trends in emissions and VCDs indicate that surrounding areas are more influential in NO2 level for Beijing than those for Shanghai.

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.