The carbon footprint of electricity production – April 2023

The monthly emissions from each power plant in Greece are estimated based on the latest available electricity production data (April 2023 for the interconnected network and March 2023 for the non-interconnected islands) and those of the annual CO2 emissions from ETS (2022), as well as the methodology and assumptions presented here.

Emissions per fuel

A total of 4.77 million tonnes of CO2 were emitted in the first four months of 2023 for electricity production. 52.4% was emitted from lignite plants (2.5 million tonnes), 34.3% from fossil gas plants (1.64 million tonnes) and 13.3% from oil plants (0.64 million tonnes). Lignite is leading the emissions despite its significantly reduced electricity production compared to fossil gas. In the first four months of 2023, lignite contributed 1721 GWh of electricity, more than double of the electricity production from fossil gas (3852 GWh), reflecting the much higher emission factor of lignite plants.

Total emissions were decreased by 21.5% compared to the same period in 2022, continuing the downward trend from all three fuels, with the largest being from fossil gas (-0.84 million tonnes or -33.8%), which has the second lowest emissions performance compared to the first four months of the last five years, with the lowest emissions occurring in 2018 (1.5 million tonnes). The smallest decrease in percentage terms (-7.7%) and in absolute terms (-0.21 million tonnes) was from lignite, following the fuel’s small decrease in its contribution to electricity production of 2.8% during the first four months of 2023 compared to the same period last year. Emissions from oil plants are estimated to have decreased by 0.26 million tonnes (-29.1%) compared to the same period in 2022.

An even greater decrease was recorded compared to the five-year average (-39.6%), where total emissions from the power sector from all three fuels were 7.9 million tonnes in the first four months of the year. This was primarily driven by the reduction in lignite production, resulting in a 2.4 million tonne (-48.7%) reduction in emissions from lignite plants in the first four months of the year compared to the five-year average (4.87 million tonnes), at the beginning of which lignite emissions were almost three times higher (7.1 million tonnes in 2018). The second largest contribution to emissions reductions after lignite was made by fossil gas-fired plants which reduced their emissions by 0.48 million tonnes (-22.7%) compared to the five-year average, followed by emissions from oil-fired plants which were reduced by 0.28 million tonnes (-30.4%).

Emissions per thermal power plan

In terms of the distribution of emissions among power plants, the first by far continued to be the lignite power plant of Agios Dimitrios, with cumulative emissions in the first quarter of 2023 of 1.71 million tonnes, which came mainly from unit V (77%) and less from units III-IV (23%). In second place is PPC’s new lignite unit “Ptolemaida 5” with 0.35 million tonnes, which despite a decrease in its contribution to electricity production in April compared to the previous two months, has a 20.6% share of lignite-based electricity generation for the five months from the start of its trial operation in December 2022 until April 2023. Third in terms of emissions but 4th in the overall ranking with 0.26 million tonnes and a minimal difference of only 638 tonnes from the previous plant (the Megalopolis V fossil gas plant) was Megalopolis IV. Cumulatively, these 3 lignite plants together emitted 2.32 million tonnes in the first quarter of 2023, representing 56.3% of the total emissions from the 17 thermal power plants of the country’s interconnected grid.

In 3rd place in the ranking of the biggest polluters in power generation and 1st among the fossil gas plants is the “Megalopolis V” plant with emissions of 0.26 million tonnes. This is followed by the high-efficiency combined heat and power (CHP) plant of Aluminum with 0.22 million tonnes. The Lavrio IV-V gas plant moved up to 6th place in the overall ranking with 0.19 million tonnes, up from 10th place last month.

In the non-interconnected Islands, the largest oil station emitters were located in Crete (Aterinolakkos, Linoperamata and Chania) with total emissions of 0.32 million tonnes in the first four months of 2023, representing 50.3% of total emissions from oil stations in the non-interconnected islands.

Emissions of PPC ‘s thermal power plants

In 2021, PPC signed three bond loans containing sustainability clauses. Under the first two, with a total amount of 775 million €, emissions from PPC’s thermal power plants were to be reduced by 40% in 2022 compared to 2019 levels, while the sustainability clause of the third bond loan of 500 million €, imposed a 57% reduction in 2023 compared to 2019 levels.

Based on the ETS data for all PPC’s thermal plants in 2022, total emissions were 14.92 million tonnes, a 35.3% reduction compared to 2019 levels (23.09 million tonnes), about 4.7 percentage points or 1.07 million tonnes of CO2 away from the -40% target (13.85 million tonnes) corresponding to the viability clause of the first two bonds.

Regarding the third bond, which relates to PPC’s climate performance in 2023, emissions from the company’s thermal plants for the first four months of 2023 are estimated at 3.78 million tonnes. Given that the -57% sustainability clause requires emissions to be limited to 9.93 million tonnes for 2023, the carbon budget remaining in the business by the end of the year is 6.14 million tonnes. Therefore, by April 2023 the PPC has spent 38.1% of the total carbon budget for the year. If it continues to emit at the same rate, then it will violate the sustainability clause for 2023 as well, as the carbon budget of its thermal units will be exhausted in mid-October 2023, almost two months before the end of the year. However, compared to the previous month’s estimation on the exhaustion of PPC’s emissions “reserve” in September 2023, progress is observed, which is mainly attributed to the continued reduction of lignite production.

You can see the evolution of the electricity sector emissions since 2013 as well as read the analyses from previous months here.