Coal-fired power plants rank as EU’s biggest polluters

Greenhouse gas emissions rose by 6 percent in the EU’s ETS in 2022, compared to 2021, but remained lower than levels recorded in pre-pandemic 20219, a new study by energy thinktank Ember has shown.

Though coal-related emissions are on a downward trajectory, coal was responsible for over 60 percent of emissions in EU electricity generation last year, according to the study.

The EU’s ten biggest polluters are coal-fired power plants – most of these are located in Poland and Germany – and were responsible for 25 percent of the energy sector’s emissions in 2022, according to the Ember study.

Greece recorded a marginal 0.1 percent increase in overall greenhouse gas emissions, while the country’s lignite-fired power plant emissions increased by 1.1 percent in 2022.

Greece was ranked low in terms of green energy’s share of the energy mix, which reached 43 percent in 2022. Lignite-fired electricity production’s share of the energy mix reached 10.4 percent in Greece last year, the study showed.

Over the past six years, three energy companies have ranked as the EU’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters, these being Germany’s RWE, Poland’s PGE and the Czech Republic’s EPH, the study showed.

RWE topped this list in 2022 with 75 Mt CO2e, a 3 percent increase compared to 2021. Greek power utility PPC emitted 15.9 Mt CO2 in 2022.

European effort for energy cost solutions well underway

European discussion for electricity market reforms that could lead to permanent solutions for lower-cost energy by detaching the cost of electricity from natural gas is well underway.

European Commission authorities, institutions, major enterprises and other electricity market players are currently putting forward proposals until December, when Brussels is expected to issue its own proposal for consultation, as has just been noted by Mechthild Wörsdörfer, deputy director general for the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Energy.

Discussion for longer-term reforms is planned to continue in February and March. Reforms will need to be approved by the European Parliament, as well as by the Energy Council of Ministers, in order to become binding.

The overall approach is based on a proposal forwarded by Pantelis Kapros, Professor of Energy Economics at the National Technical University of Athens, supporting the need for remuneration of renewable energy, as well as electricity production generated by other low-emission technologies, such as nuclear, to be based on actual cost through long-term agreements rather than through the day-ahead market, whose levels are determined by wholesale market prices.

According to Kapros’ proposal, wholesale market prices should be used to determine remuneration levels for fossil fuel-based energy production technologies (coal, lignite, natural gas) as well as hydropower facilities with water reserves and energy storage units.

Government in frantic search of €3-4bn for crisis measures

The government is frantically searching for solutions that would secure between 3 to 4 billion euros to compensate energy companies for planned price ceilings on wholesale energy prices.

Energy market conditions are adverse across the board. Consumers are struggling to meet costlier energy-bill payments, energy market companies and authorities fear an increase in unpaid receivables and its wider effects, while the government, seeing its approval rating fall by between half and one percentage point a month, is hoping for a European solution to the energy crisis, now exacerbated by Russia’s war on Ukraine.

A European solution to the energy crisis does not seem anywhere near. French president Emmanuel Macron is currently stranded by the French elections, while German chancellor Olaf Scholz appears undecided. For the time being, at least, the Greek government will need to seek a solution through the national budget.

Russian president Vladimir Putin is under no pressure to end his war on Ukraine and stop his energy-sector blackmailing of the EU as long as European energy payments for Russian gas, oil and coal, totaling 600 million dollars a day, keep flowing into Russia.

At this stage, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ proposal for a price ceiling at the TTF gas exchange appears to be the only promising solution, as this would strike at the root of the problem prompting exorbitant electricity prices around Europe.