With rigorous economic research and practical policy solutions, we focus on the issues and institutions that are critical to global development. Explore our core themes and topics to learn more about our work.
In timely and incisive analysis, our experts parse the latest development news and devise practical solutions to new and emerging challenges. Our events convene the top thinkers and doers in global development.
CARMA v3.0 Reveals New Data on CO2 Emissions, Corporate Ownership, and Locations of 60,000 power plants
August 27, 2012
Seven of the top ten CO2-emitting power plants in the world are located in Asia, with plants in South Korea claiming four of the top six spots. At the firm level, companies located in the developing world account for seven of the top ten emitters, with China's large, state-owned power companies accounting for five of the top seven. China, the United States, and India are the world’s top three countries for power plant emissions. And within the United States, 22 of the 25 top emitting Congressional Districts are held by Republicans.
These are samples of the information now available from an updated and improved version of the Center for Global Development’s online Carbon Monitoring for Action (CARMA) database. A newly updated version, CARMA v3.0, reveals the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, electricity production, corporate ownership, and location of more than 60,000 power plants in over 200 countries.
Electricity production is responsible for about one-quarter of all climate-warming greenhouse gas pollution, and CARMA is the only global database for tracking specific sources of CO2, the most important greenhouse gas.
First launched in 2007, CARMA has been expanded and upgraded to incorporate data from authorities in the United States, European Union, Canada, India, and South Africa as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency. For facilities lacking publicly-disclosed data, estimates are generated using a new suite of statistical models.
Data are available for the year 2004, 2009, and the future, based on power companies’ expansion plans. The comparisons do not reflect emissions per capita, which are much lower in the developing world than in high-income countries.
“The impacts of climate change are hitting poor people in the developing world first and worst,” says CGD president Nancy Birdsall. “While the rich countries have been emitting at high levels for much longer and thus must bear primary responsibility, the new CARMA data remind us that emissions are indeed a global problem. Close monitoring of the emission sources will be an important part of any effort to reduce them.”
By collecting all power plant emissions data into a single, easy-to-access online database, CGD hopes to use the power of public information disclosure to strengthen incentives for reduced emissions around the world, Birdsall said.
Since CARMA was first launched in 2007, an increasing number of companies and governments have begun to officially disclose power plant emission data. “Officially reported CO2 emissions now account for over one-third of the global total for power plants, and CARMA consolidates all of these plant-level reports into a single source,” said David Wheeler, co-founder of CARMA and senior fellow emeritus at CGD.
“For plants and companies that still refuse to disclose, CARMA v3.0 features a new and substantially improved method for estimating their emissions,” he added. “CARMA continues to be the sole source for accurate, comprehensive information on the emissions performance of power companies worldwide.”
The massive Taichung coal power plant in Longjing, Taiwan leads the list of the world's top emitters, producing an estimated 36 million tons of CO2 in 2009. The single largest producer of carbon-free electricity was the Itaipu Dam located on the border of Brazil and Paraguay, beating out the Three Gorges Dam in Hubei Province, China for the top spot.
The leading corporate emitter, China Huaneng Group Corporation, owns or operates power plants that emitted an estimated 417 million tons of CO2. France's EDF Group led all power companies in electricity generation in 2009 using nuclear power plants to provide nearly 80% of the total.
New in CARMA v3.0 are complete data on the location and electricity production of nuclear power plants worldwide. This information reveals that the Yonggwang and Ulchin plants in South Korea led all nuclear power plants in electricity generation, each producing over 48 million MWh. Japan's Fukushima Daini plant, severely damaged by a tsunami in early 2011, ranked seventh in the world in 2009 (list of the top nuclear power plants in the world).
Among the many changes to CARMA is a significant improvement in the scope and quality of geographic information, making it the leading data source for geocoding of power plants. China's Shanxi, Jiangsu, and Hebei provinces – as well as Texas in the US – led all states and provinces worldwide in power plant CO2 emissions, each producing about 250 million metric tons in 2009.
Within the US, even more detailed geographic regions are available. Power plants in the Chicago-Naperville-Michigan metro area produced over 52 million tons of CO2, making it the leading emitter among US metro areas (list of leading CO2 emitters by US metro areas).
Of the top 25 emitting Congressional Districts in 2009, 22 are currently held by Republicans.
Despite all the attention to renewables, globally the carbon intensity of electricity—the amount of CO2 generated per unit of power—declined just 1.7% between 2004 and 2009 (from 590 kg/MWh to 580 kg/MWh). This small improvement was swamped by a more than 15% increase in total electricity consumption over the same period. Overall, global carbon emissions from electricity generation grew by 13.6% between 2004 and 2009.
Developed (high-income) countries saw emissions decline by 3% as declining carbon intensity (-5.5%) outpaced growth in electricity consumption (2.7%). Among the countries with declining emissions from power generation were the United States, Germany, United Kingdom and Italy.
In the developing world, a very small decline in carbon intensity (-1.3%) paled in comparison to a 34% increase in consumption, leading to a nearly 33% increase in power sector CO2 emissions between 2004 and 2009.
“Researchers around the world are already using CARMA in interesting and unexpected ways: whether modeling the movement of carbon in the atmosphere, assessing the effect of coal fly ash on crop yields in China, or understanding how mercury moves through Arctic ecosystems,” says CARMA project manager Kevin Ummel, who helped to develop the original database and undertook the recent update.
Ummel notes that CARMA’s geospatial features could also be used as a starting point for analysis of the health impacts of conventional pollutants such as mercury and other heavy metals, particulate matter, SO2, and NOx that are emitted by fossil-fuel burning power plants, for example, by comparing locations of high-emissions plants with downwind disease clusters.
“With some additional work, CARMA can enable better understanding of the sources and consequences of these pollutants and help local communities organize to protect their health,” he said.
CARMA's extensive geographic data also allow spatial patterns to be analyzed in ways that were not previously possible. Below are maps showing the distribution of power plants in the US, China, and India for 2009. The icons reveal the fuel type, electricity generation, and carbon intensity for thousands of power plants. They show how different types of power plants tend to cluster in particular regions, revealing where new renewable power technologies are penetrating most quickly and, perhaps, explaining why adoption of new technologies is slow or impossible in places dominated by large fossil fuel power plants.
*Members of the media interested in speaking with Kevin Ummel should contact media relations associateCatherine An at email@example.com or contact her by phone at (202) 416-4040.
The Center for Global Development: CGD works to reduce global poverty and inequality through rigorous research and active engagement with the policy community to make the world a more prosperous, just, and safe place for all people. As a nimble, independent, nonpartisan, and nonprofit think tank, focused on improving the policies and practices of the rich and powerful, the Center combines world-class scholarly research with policy analysis and innovative outreach and communications to turn ideas into action.