Electricity sector is a main contributor of greenhouse gas (GHG), NOx, SO2 and PM2.5 and related environmental impact in China. This research conducted a critical review of 36 studies containing 51 cases involving 10 electricity generation technologies in China to analyze the ranges of emission data for GHG, NOx, SO2 and PM2.5, summarize the current LCA methodologies and the key indicators like impact categories and temporal scale. The results showed it’s incomplete to measure the environmental performance of an electricity generation technology solely based on GHG emission. Emissions data were set and evaluated at different life cycle stages for different electricity generation technologies. Emissions from fuel combustion contributed the majority of the life cycle emissions for fossil fuel power, up to 90% for GHG, 70% for SO2, similarly, biomass fuel provision accounted the largest share of emissions for biomass technologies, up to 85% for GHG. Emission and environmental impacts from plant infrastructure contributed the largest share for renewable energies. And the emission of end-of-life treatment from renewable energies can offset considerable life cycle emissions. The results from this review provided a concrete and balanced basis for further LCA modelling in the China’s whole electricity sector.
Keywords electricity sector, LCA, renewable energy, energy systems for power generation