Emissions of greenhouse gases from China and India are expected to increase in the coming two decades. The objectives of this study are two-fold: (1) to quantify the technical potential of various options to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from the electricity sector in China and India in the year 2020, and (2) to evaluate a business-as-usual (BAU) scenario plus a number of best practice technology (BPT) scenarios for emission reduction of greenhouse gases from electricity production in China and India up to the year 2020. Options to reduce emissions include end use efficiency improvement, fuel switches, and efficiency improvement of existing and new power plants. For China, we calculated that the individual options analysed have technical potentials to reduce 2020 emissions ranging from 1% to 43% (relative to 2020 unabated emissions) and for India from 4% to 45%. Relatively large reduction potentials are calculated for end use efficiency improvement (43% for China and 45% for India), replacement of coal by renewable energy (23% for China and 14% for India) and natural gas (11% for China and 14% for India). Reducing electricity losses during transmission and distribution would reduce emissions by 7% (China) and 6% (India) and electrical efficiency improvement of power plants by 9% in both countries. The reduction options differ with respect to their feasibility. In the BAU scenario, emissions increase considerably between 1990 and 2020. Next, we present results for three BPT scenarios, which reflect the combined technical potential of selected options to reduce emissions. Our calculations indicate that all three scenarios have a potential to reduce emissions to about half the 2020 BAU level. The three scenarios are very different in their assumptions on reduction options, indicating that there are different strategies possible for realising relatively large emission reductions in China and India. We conclude that end use efficiency improvement may be one of the most effective ways to reduce emissions, in particular when combined with fuel switches. However, in none of the scenarios presented here the reduction options are sufficient to avoid building of new coal-fired power plants after the year 2000. (C) 2002 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.