The post-lignite era in light of COP26

Nikos Mantzaris, participated in the show FYSIKA, dedicated to the theme “Western Macedonia facing the post-lignite era”, as a guest of the physicist and development consultant Spyros Kanouras. The Regional Governor of Western Macedonia George Kasapidis, the President of the Steering Committee of the Just Development Transition Plan Kostis Mousouroulis, the Rector of the University of Western Macedonia Theodoros Theodoulidis and the Vice Regional Governor for Energy, Infrastructure and the Environment Kalliopi Kyriakidou also participated in the show.

On the occasion of the global climate conference (COP26) that is currently taking place, Nikos Mantzaris presented the developments in both the climate policy and the energy landscape at an international and European level. He gave emphasis on the commitments made by different countries to achieve climate neutrality in compliance with the 2015 Paris Agreement. In this context, he explained the importance of phasing out coal, namely lignite and hard coal, which is the most polluting fuel globally, for the reduction of emissions and, ultimately, curbing the temperature rise.

He commented that reducing lignite use is a broader trend among major polluters, with the exception of China. Especially in the European Union, the number of member-states committed to a specific coal phase-out date has risen sharply in recent years. Focusing on Greece, which since 2015 has reduced its lignite production by 71%, he explained that this reduction is a result of today’s high operational costs of lignite plants. This is inextricably linked to developments in EU legislation. In particular, the EU Industrial Emissions Directive has led to high compliance costs for plants to reduce pollution other than carbon dioxide, while the recent amendment of the Directive on emissions trading has led to higher CO2 prices. At the same time, subsidies to lignite plants are abolished. Thus, phasing out coal is imperative for economic reasons, especially for Greece, which has the worst quality lignite in Europe and emits the most carbon dioxide per unit of energy produced, hence being more vulnerable to market instabilities and price changes.

Given the EU’s commitment to climate neutrality in 2050 and emissions reductions of at least 55% by 2030 in the European Deal Agreement and the European Climate Law, this trend is not reversible. In fact, with the wide-range revision of European legislation through the Fit for 55 package, even higher CO2 prices are expected, making lignite phase out a one-way road.

In this course, Greece faces two challenges, one at national and one at local level. On the one hand, the choice of fuel for the post-lignite era, where RES and their storage should be preferred over fossil gas. On the other hand, the choices that Greece will make in order not to leave its two lignite regions behind that have made sacrifices for so many years to supply the rest of the country with electricity. This challenge is of the utmost importance, given the fact that among the lignite regions of the EU, the Greek ones are the most deeply dependent on lignite activities.

In his second speech, Nikos Mantzaris answered a question regarding the current energy crisis and the surge in electricity prices. In particular, he stressed that the issue is multifaceted and can be summarized as a problem of high demand and low supply, which is influenced by economic and geopolitical factors. All the parameters that affect it have led to a multiplication of the prices of electricity production from fossil fuels and may occur again in the future. Thus, there must be an acceleration of the shift to RES, which are the cheapest, in addition to the necessary and obvious environmental benefit.

You can watch the speech of Nikos Mantzaris in the show FYSIKA of the ANICHNEFSEIS web TV channel that was broadcast live on 5.11.2021 (in Greek) here:

And the whole show here.