Sulfur hexafluoride (SF6
) is a powerful greenhouse gas with high global warming potential. Future growth in SF6
use will be driven mainly by increasing demand for electricity and associated infrastructure in developing countries. In relation to electrical equipment, China currently produces the largest proportion of SF6
emissions. Because of the long lifetimes of electrical equipment, SF6
emissions are substantially different from its consumption, which has been used as an inaccurate proxy for emission estimations, i.e., the so-called “delayed emission effect.” This study established a model to estimate SF6
emissions by considering the delay through equipment survival, retirement curve, and equipment life cycles. Three scenarios were established to model the potential for mitigation of SF6
emissions from electrical equipment. The results showed considerable delayed effects in SF6
emissions associated with electrical equipment. By 2050, the cumulative delayed emission was projected to be 50–249 kt under the different scenarios, which would be 1.2–6.0 GtCO2
e. Therefore, replacing emissions with consumption could overestimate actual short-term emissions by 1–2 times. Although electrification in end-use sectors and high penetration of renewables in generation could lower global emissions substantially, SF6
emissions by 2050 could still increase by 15 kt (i.e., 0.36 GtCO2
e) if mitigation measures are not adopted. Thus, a low-carbon electricity roadmap should be complemented by careful management of electrical equipment. The potential for mitigation of SF6
emissions could be realized through demand-side management to reduce electricity demand and through technological improvements on the supply side to reduce leakage and increase recovery.
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