The carbon footprint of electricity production– August 2023

The monthly emissions from each power plant in Greece are estimated based on the latest available electricity production data (August 2023 for the interconnected network and July 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 10.17 million tonnes of CO2 were emitted in the first eight months of 2023 for electricity production. 42.5% was emitted from lignite plants (4.32 million tonnes), 39.4% from fossil gas plants (4.01 million tonnes) and 18.1% from oil plants (1.85 million tonnes). Emissions from lignite continue to exceed those from fossil gas, however the gap is shrinking as lignite declines in the electricity production mix. In particular, fossil gas produced three times more electricity than lignite in the first eight months of 2023, while its CO2 emissions were 0.31 million tonnes less than those of lignite.

Total emissions from the sector decreased by 3.51 million tonnes or 25.6% 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 lignite units (-1.78 million tonnes or -29.2% compared to 2022), reversing the trend which existed up to July in cumulative emissions, according to which the largest reduction was coming from fossil gas. The decrease in lignite was followed by a decrease in emissions from fossil gas (-1.46 million tonnes or -26.7%), while the smallest reduction came from oil plants, whose emissions are estimated to have decreased by 0.27 million tonnes (-12.7%) compared to the same period in 2022.

An even greater decrease was recorded compared to the five-year average (-36.8%), where total emissions from the power sector from all three fuels were 1.61 million tonnes in the first eight months of the year. This was primarily driven by the reduction in lignite production, resulting in a 4.9 million tonne (-53.1%) reduction in emissions from lignite plants in the first eight months of the year compared to the five-year average (9.21 million tonnes). At the beginning of the five-year period (2018), lignite emissions (16.05 million tonnes) were almost four times higher than the ones in 2023. The second largest contribution to emissions reductions after lignite was made by fossil gas-fired plants which reduced their emissions by 0.71 million tonnes (-15%) compared to the five-year average, followed by emissions from oil-fired plants which were reduced by 0.32 million tonnes (-14.8%).

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 eight months of 2023 2.52 million tonnes. In August, all of its units (II-V), except the first one, were operating, however with quite low capacity factors, producing a total of 113 GWh. In second place was again the new PPC lignite unit “Ptolemaida 5” (0.91 million tons), which has been used as the main lignite production unit since June, with significantly increased electricity production compared to Agios Dimitrios. In fact, in August 2023, it had the highest capacity factor compared to the other months of the year (36.1%), producing 165 GWh. Among the top three lignite plants was Megalopolis IV, which, although fourth in the overall ranking, emitted 0.52 million tonnes. Cumulatively with the first two, the three lignite stations were responsible for 4 million tonnes in the eight months to 2023. Τogether, all the lignite plants (including Meliti I) accounted for just over half (51.9%) of the total emissions from the 17 thermal power plants in the country’s interconnected grid (8.33 million tonnes).

In 3rd place in the ranking of the largest polluters in electricity production was the “Megalopolis V” fossil gas plant with emissions of 0.67 million tonnes, whose electricity production has been on an upward trend since April 2023, recording the highest emissions of the year in August (344. 7 GWh). It was followed by the Lavrio IV-V gas plant with 0.46 million tonnes, which moved up one place in the ranking, while the high-efficiency combined heat and power (CHP) plant of Aluminum was ranked sixth with 0.43 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 0.7 million tonnes in the first eight months of 2023. In fact, Aterinolakkos (0.39 million tonnes) climbed to 8th place leaving behind 4 fossil gas plants and one lignite plant. It was followed by the Soroni plant in Rhodes (0.21 million tonnes), emitting slightly more than the Chania oil station (0.18 million tonnes). Together, the top four oil stations account for almost 60% (59.2%) of total emissions 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 eight months of 2023 are estimated at 7.76 million tonnes – an all-time low. Moreover, they appear to be down 27.9% compared to the same period in 2022, when total emissions from PPC plants were 10.76 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 2.17 million tonnes. Therefore, so far the PPC has spent 78.2% 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 mid Demember 2023, just 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 already by September. The progress is mainly attributed to the reduction of emissions from lignite plants (-1.78 million tonnes), secondarily from PPC-owned fossil gas plants (-0.95 million tonnes), and finally from oil plants (-0.27 million tonnes).

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