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Working Papers

Concentrating Solar Power in China and India: A Spatial Analysis of Technical Potential and the Cost of Deployment - Working Paper 219

7/12/10
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Coal power generation in China and India could double and triple, respectively, over the next 20 years, which would increase exposure to fuel price volatility, exacerbate local air pollution, and hasten global climate change. Moving to concentrating solar power (CSP), a growing source of utility-scale, pollution-free electricity, would help alleviate these problems, but its potential in Asia remains largely unexamined. In this working paper, Kevin Ummel uses high-resolution spatial data to identify areas suitable for CSP and estimates power generation and cost under various land-use scenarios.

Total CSP potential in China is at least 16 times greater than current coal power output; in India, it is at least 3 times greater. A CSP expansion program could provide 20 percent of electricity in both countries by midcentury. Under conservative assumptions, the program will require subsidies of $340 billion in present dollars. Estimated costs are especially sensitive to the assumed rate of technological learning, making it especially important to form committed public policy and financing to reduce investment risk, encourage the expansion of manufacturing capacity, and achieve long-term cost reductions.

A supplemental annex with technical details is available.

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