Background: As the two main forces of China’s power electricity, the energy generation efficiencies of thermal power and hydropower are important factors affecting energy conservation and emissions reduction.
Methods: Considering regional differences and multiple effective decision-making units, this research uses the meta-frontier super-efficiency slack based measure model to comprehensively evaluate the efficiencies of hydropower and thermal power generation in China, with CO2 emissions of thermal power generation as its undesirable output.
Results: The average group efficiency of thermal power generation in the central region have greatly improved, and the eastern and western regions also show an upward trend, whereas there is a slight downward trend for hydropower in the three regions. The hydropower technological gaps in the three regions have slightly expanded, but the thermal power technology gaps in the east, the central, and the west have gradually narrowed, indicating that the thermal power industry is generally mature, and CO2 emission control and treatment have made some progress. From the perspective of input-output non-efficiency level, the undesirable output CO2 of thermal power energy efficiency in the eastern, central, and western regions is surplus, and the redundancy of equipment utilization hours, energy input, and installed capacity in the western region are all high, but generation in the western region is insufficient, leading to relatively low efficiency of thermal power generation there. In the east, the redundancy of equipment utilization hours, number of employees, and installed capacity are all high, and the generation of hydropower in the east and the central is insufficient, leading to relatively low efficiency of hydropower in these two regions.
Conclusions: There are regional differences in the efficiencies of hydropower and thermal power generation in China. The thermal power industry is becoming mature, but its CO2 emissions should be reduced, and the hydropower industry needs further policies support according to local conditions to improve energy efficiency and achieve green development.