The carbon footprint of electricity production – July 2023

The monthly emissions from each power plant in Greece are estimated based on the latest available electricity production data (July 2023 for the interconnected network and June 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 8.61 million tonnes of CO2 were emitted in the first seven months of 2023 for electricity production. 44.7% was emitted from lignite plants (3.85 million tonnes), 38.8% from fossil gas plants (3.34 million tonnes) and 16.5% from oil plants (1.42 million tonnes). Emissions from lignite continued to lead the way, despite the fact that its contribution to the electricity production mix is significantly smaller. In particular, lignite produced 2.9 times less electricity than fossil gas, a historic low compared to the first seven months of previous years, while emitting 1.15 times more CO2 pollutants than fossil gas. However, emissions from fossil gas also remained high (just 0.5 million tonnes less than lignite in the seven-month period), despite a 27.1% decrease in its contribution to electricity production in the first seven months of 2023 compared to the same period in 2022.

Total emissions from the sector decreased by 2.59 million tonnes or 23.1% compared to the same period in 2022, as a result of the downward trend in emissions from all three fossil fuels. The largest decrease was from fossil gas units (-1.24 million tonnes or -27.1% compared to 2022), showing the lowest performance after 2018 (2.71 million tonnes). This was followed by a decrease in emissions from lignite (-1.05 million tonnes or -21.4%), while the smallest percentage and absolute reduction came from oil plants, whose emissions are estimated to have decreased by 0.29 million tonnes (-17.1%) compared to the same period in 2022.

An even greater decrease was recorded compared to the five-year average (-37.1%), where total emissions from the power sector from all three fuels were 1.37 million tonnes in the first seven months of the year. This was primarily driven by the reduction in lignite production, resulting in a 4.1 million tonne (-51.5%) reduction in emissions from lignite plants in the first seven months of the year compared to the five-year average (7.94 million tonnes), at the beginning of which lignite emissions were three and a half times higher (13.65 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 0.63 million tonnes (-15.8%) compared to the five-year average, followed by emissions from oil-fired plants which were reduced by 0.36 million tonnes (-20.3%).

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, in which for the first time in 2023 all the I-V units operated, with low utilization factors producing 200. 7 GWh in total in July 2023. In second place was again the new PPC lignite unit “Ptolemaida 5” (0.75 million tons), which in July recorded the highest electricity production (255.7 GWh) since it started its operation, covering 43.2% of electricity production from lignite units. Among the top three lignite plants was Megalopolis IV, although it was fourth in the overall ranking, emitting 0.48 million tonnes. Cumulatively with the first two they emitted 3.57 million tonnes in the first half of 2023, accounting for almost half (49.7%) of total emissions from the 17 thermal power plants in the country’s interconnected grid.

In 4th place in the ranking of the biggest polluters in power production was the “Megalopolis V” plant with emissions of 0.53 million tonnes, recording in July 2023 the highest monthly electricity production of the year (313.5 GWh). It was followed by the high-efficiency combined heat and power (CHP) plant of Aluminum with 0.38 million tonnes while one place higher than last month, in 6th place in the overall ranking, was the Lavrio IV-V gas plant with 0.37 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 0.54 million tonnes in the first seven months of 2023, followed by the Soroni station in Rhodes (0.16 million tonnes), emitting slightly more than the Chania oil station (0.14 million tonnes). Cumulatively, the top four oil stations in terms of emissions represent almost 60% (58.7%) of the total emissions 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 seven months of 2023 are estimated at 6.57 million tonnes – a five-year low. Moreover, they appear to be down 25% compared to the same period in 2022, when total emissions from PPC plants were 8.76 million tonnes. Despite this progress, however, and given that the sustainability clause of -57% 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 3.36 million tonnes. Therefore, so far the PPC has spent 66.1% 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, one month before the end of the year. However, there has been progress 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, whose emissions in the first seven months of 2023 have been reduced by 29% compared to the same period in 2019, followed by PPC-owned fossil gas plants with a 15.6% reduction in emissions and then oil plants with a smaller reduction in oil plants (-9.2%).

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