Air pollution co-benefits from strengthening electric transmission and distribution systems
Inefficiencies in the transmission and distribution (T&D) of electricity between suppliers and customers can lead to higher compensatory electricity generation and unanticipated air pollution.
Using both life cycle assessments and uncertainty analyses, we estimate the compensatory air pollutants – CO2eq, SOx, NOx, and PM2.5 – associated with aggregate and non-technical T&D losses at national and subnational scales. Our global analysis estimates that 1 Gigatonne of CO2eq and 1.3 Megatonnes (Mt) NOx, 1.6 Mt SOx, and 2 Mt PM2.5 are associated with annual aggregate T&D losses. We also find that approximately 274 Mt CO2eq, 367 kilotonnes (kt) NOx, 486 kt SOx, and 535 kt PM2.5 are emitted due to non-technical T&D losses. Our subnational analysis in the United States demonstrates the variation of emissions savings across regulatory jurisdictions.
We present an initial deployment cost analysis for CO2eq reduction which compares deploying smart meters (i.e., reducing non-technical T&D losses) to renewable energy generation expansion. Investments in T&D infrastructure are beneficial in a completely decarbonized system because improvements in the T&D grid can make investments in renewable energy more cost-effective.
L. Janicke, D. Nock, K. Surana, S. M. Jordaan, Air pollution co-benefits from strengthening electric transmission and distribution systems, Energy 269 (2023) 126735.