The carbon footprint of electricity production– September 2023

The monthly emissions from each power plant in Greece are estimated based on the latest available electricity production data (September 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 11.2 million tonnes of CO2 were emitted in the first nine months of 2023 for electricity production. For the first time in 2023, cumulative emissions from fossil gas plants (4.59 million tonnes & 40.8% share) exceeded those from lignite plants (4.53 million tonnes & 40.3% share). The remaining 18.9% of emissions came from oil plants (2.12 million tonnes). This change in the ranking was mainly due to the total decline of lignite in the electricity production mix and partly due to the substitution of the old more polluting lignite units by the new lignite unit of PPC “Ptolemaida 5”, which in September 2023 accounted for 74.5% (139 GWh) of the total electricity production from lignite.

Total emissions from the sector decreased by 3.87 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 (-2.16 million tonnes or -32.3% 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 (-1.4 million tonnes or -23.4%), while the smallest reduction came from oil plants, whose emissions have decreased by 0.31 million tonnes (-12.7%) compared to the same period in 2022.

An even greater decrease of 6.7 million tonnes was recorded compared to the five-year average (-37.3%), where total emissions from the power sector from all three fuels were 17.9 million tonnes in the first nine months of the year. This was primarily driven by the reduction in lignite production, resulting in a 5.6 million tonnes (-55.1%) reduction in emissions from lignite plants in the first nine months of the year compared to the five-year average (10.1 million tonnes). It is noteworthy, that in the beginning of the five-year period (2018), lignite emissions (17.9 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 0.76 million tonnes (-23.4%) compared to the five-year average, followed by emissions from oil-fired plants which were reduced by 0.34 million tonnes (-12.7%).

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 nine months of 2023 2.54 million tonnes. However, in September 2023 it had the lowest historical monthly emissions (0.02 million tonnes), as only two of its five active units (III, V) operated, delivering only 113 GWh. In second place was again the new PPC lignite unit “Ptolemaida 5” (1.05 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 September 2023, had the largest share of emissions coming from lignite-fired power plants (65.8%), despite the low emission factor compared to other plants[1]. Among the top three lignite plants was Megalopolis IV, which, although fourth in the overall ranking, emitting 0.57 million tonnes in the first nine months of 2023.

In 3rd place in the ranking of the largest polluters in electricity production was the “Megalopolis V” fossil gas plant with emissions of 0.78 million tonnes, despite the fact that in September 2023 (292.3 GWh) the increasing trend in electricity production from April to August 2023 was halted. It was followed by the Lavrio IV-V gas plant with 0.55 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 0.47 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 0.81 million tonnes in the first nine months of 2023. In fact, Aterinolakkos (0.45 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 (0.25 million tonnes), emitting slightly more than the Chania oil station (0.2 million tonnes). Together, the top four oil stations account for almost 60% (59.5%) 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 nine months of 2023 are estimated at 8.48 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 11.9 million tonnes. The improvement is mainly attributed to the reduction of emissions from lignite plants (-2.16 million tonnes), secondarily to the reduction from PPC-owned fossil gas plants (-0.95 million tonnes), and finally to that from oil plants (-0.31 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 1.45 million tonnes. Therefore, so far the PPC has spent 85.4% 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 late November 2023, more than one month before the end of the year.

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

[1] It is recalled that regarding Ptolemaida 5, an estimation of emissions is made, using as emission factor for the unit the value of 1 tn/MWh, which is indicated in the environmental impact study of the plant. This is a choice made necessarily, because there is no electricity production and emissions data from past years- as in the other plants – through which the actual emission factor is calculated.