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Effectiveness of clean development policies on coal-fired power generation: an empirical study in China

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Coal-fired power will remain China’s primary source of electricity for a long time to come. The clean development of coal-fired power generation has become an important strategic choice for China’s energy transformation. Based on collecting and sorting out the driving policies for China’s clean development of coal-fired power generation from 1997 to 2016, firstly, we reviewed the historical evolution of these policies in terms of the policy quantity, policy theme, and policy instrument. Then, we designed the scoring criteria to quantify the policies. Finally, the effectiveness of the overall policies and different policy instruments was empirically analyzed by the econometric model built on the basis of Cobb-Douglas production function. The results show that the annual release amount of driving policies for the clean development of coal-fired power in China presents a trend of fluctuating growth. Policy themes are mainly divided into two parts, namely production capacity management and air pollutants control; policy instruments mainly include elimination of backward units, project approval, standards, generation price regulation, tax incentives, loan policy, and information publicity; the overall policies have significant positive effects on the clean development of coal-fired power industry; in terms of policy instruments, the elimination of backward units and generation price regulation have significant effects on improving the energy efficiency; project approval and generation price regulation are effective for reducing SO2 emissions rate; and the effects of standards, tax incentives, loan policy, and information publicity on the clean development of coal-fired power are not significant. On these bases, some policy implications to further promote the clean development of coal-fired power industry are provided.

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    In different cases, the lag phases of policy variables were determined according to AIC and SC criteria.


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This research is supported by the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (2020ZDPYMS42).

Author information

All authors have made a significant contribution to this research. Meizhen Zhang and Tao Lv conceived the research idea and designed general framework of the research. Junju Pan and Yang Zhao collected the data for analysis. Meizhen Zhang wrote the paper. Tao Lv revised the paper. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Correspondence to Tao Lv.

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1. The annual release amount of policies has shown a trend of fluctuating growth.

2. Policy themes mainly include capacity management and atmospheric pollutant treatment.

3. Overall policies have a significant effect on clean development of coal-fired power.

4. Elimination of small units and generation price regulation have significant effects.

5. Project approval and generation price regulation have significant effects.

Responsible Editor: Baojing Gu

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Zhang, M., Lv, T., Zhao, Y. et al. Effectiveness of clean development policies on coal-fired power generation: an empirical study in China. Environ Sci Pollut Res (2020).

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  • Coal-fired power generation
  • Clean development policy
  • Policy evolution
  • Policy effectiveness