The carbon footprint of electricity production – May 2023

The monthly emissions from each power plant in Greece are estimated based on the latest available electricity production data (May 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 5.62 million tonnes of CO2 were emitted in the first five months of 2023 for electricity production. 50.1% was emitted from lignite plants (2.81 million tonnes), 35.8% from fossil gas plants (2.01 million tonnes) and 14.1% from oil plants (0.64 million tonnes). While emissions from lignite were 1.4 times higher than those from fossil gas, its contribution to electricity production in the first five months of 2023 (1920 GWh) was 2.5 times lower (4725 GWh), reflecting the much higher emission factor of lignite plants.

Total emissions were decreased by 21.3% compared to the same period in 2022, continuing the downward trend from all three fuels. The largest decrease was from fossil gas units (-0.97 million tonnes or -32.5% compared to 2008), showing the lowest performance since 2018 (1.87 million tonnes). The smallest decrease in percentage terms (-7.6%) and in absolute terms (-0.23 million tonnes) was from lignite, following the fuel’s small decrease in its contribution to electricity production of 3.6% during the first five months of 2023 compared to the same period last year. Emissions from oil plants are estimated to have decreased by 0.32 million tonnes (-28.7%) compared to the same period in 2022.

An even greater decrease was recorded compared to the five-year average (-40.5%), where total emissions from the power sector from all three fuels were 9.44 million tonnes in the first five months of the year. This was primarily driven by the reduction in lignite production, resulting in a 2.89 million tonne (-50.7%) reduction in emissions from lignite plants in the first five months of the year compared to the five-year average (5.71 million tonnes), at the beginning of which lignite emissions were almost three times higher (8.88 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 0.57 million tonnes (-22.1%) compared to the five-year average, followed by emissions from oil-fired plants which were reduced by 0.36 million tonnes (-30.9%).

You can see the overall trend of CO2 emissions by fuel from 2013 to date here.

Emissions per thermal power plant

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 five months of 2023 of 1.96 million tonnes, which came almost entirely from unit V (97%) while the remaining 3% came from unit I. In second place is again PPC’s new lignite unit “Ptolemaida 5” with 0.35 million tonnes, despite its zero contribution to electricity production in May. Third in the ranking is the Megalopolis IV lignite plant with 0.33 million tonnes, while in total with the first two, it emitted 2.64 million tonnes in the first five months of 2023, representing 54.8% of the total emissions from the 17 thermal power plants of the country’s interconnected grid.

In 4th place in the ranking of the biggest polluters in power production is the “Megalopolis V” plant with emissions of 0.31 million tonnes, followed by the high-efficiency combined heat and power (CHP) plant of Aluminum with 0.27 million tonnes. One place higher than last month, in 6th place in the overall ranking, is the “Aliveri 5” gas plant with 0.23 million tonnes.

In the non-interconnected Islands, two of the three oil stations located in Crete (Atherinolakkos and Linoperamata) lead in emissions with total emissions of 0.31 million tonnes in the first five months of 2023, while Rhodes follows for the first time in emissions (0.08 million tonnes), emitting slightly more than the Chania oil station (0.076). Cumulatively, the top four oil stations in terms of emissions represent 58.3% of the total emissions from oil stations on 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 five of 2023 are estimated at 4.4 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 5.53 million tonnes. Therefore, by May 2023 the PPC has spent 44.4% of the total carbon budget for the year. If it continues to emit at the same rate, the carbon budget of its thermal units will be exhausted in November 2023, two months before the end of the year. However, there has been steady progress from month to month and especially in comparison to the first months of the year when the PPC’s “emission reserve” was predicted to be exhausted in September. The progress is mainly attributed to the continued limitation of lignite production, which in May in particular was the second lowest historically (200 GWh) safter the monthly production of April 2022.

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