Energy efficiency projects, despite their financial attractiveness and air-pollution-reducing benefits, often face institutional and technical barriers. In China, which has both severe air pollution and a sophisticated set of nationwide energy efficiency programs, more still needs to be done to enhance the role of efficiency in improving air quality. Practitioners in the energy efficiency and pollution control fields could better coordinate their planning and implementation to capitalize on the most promising energy efficiency opportunities, and this paper explores some ways to make that coordination happen.

A 2015 study by RAP and the Institute for Industrial Productivity (IIP) evaluated investment costs, energy savings, and abatement of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide from 84 projects completed in some of the top 10,000 energy-consuming enterprises in China. It found that the efficiency projects generate sizable financial benefits even before air pollution is considered, demonstrating that the barrier to further ramp-up is not project economics but rather organizational blockages and mismatched incentives, among other issues.

To address these issues, the two communities of practice need to work together closely and effectively. Getting them to do so is not an easy task in China, where, as in many other countries, the two authorities operate in largely separate hierarchies. Air quality agencies need to do a better job of assessing and considering demand-side measures, including efficiency. Energy efficiency practitioners need to help air regulators deliver on specifics of how efficiency can help control air quality in local planning. To help officials overcome these barriers, the Clean Air Alliance of China has created a series of templates, which contain a stepwise process for including industrial energy efficiency projects in air quality management plans and permit