The carbon footprint of electricity production– November 2023

The monthly emissions from each power plant in Greece are estimated based on the latest available electricity production data (November 2023 for the interconnected network and September 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 13.35 million tonnes of CO2 were emitted in the first eleven months of 2023 for electricity production. In November, emissions from lignite plants exceeded those of fossil gas again, after three consecutive months (August-October) when the opposite trend was observed. This change, however, did not affect the cumulative emissions, as in the first eleven months of 2023, emissions from fossil gas plants (5.46 million tonnes & 40.9% share) slightly exceeded (0.03 million tonnes) those from lignite plants (5.42 million tonnes & 40.6% share). The remaining 18.5% of emissions came from oil plants (2.47 million tonnes). The decrease in the difference in emissions between fossil gas and lignite, compared to previous periods in 2023, is mainly due to a decrease in fossil gas-fired power generation, as in November for the first time in five consecutive months, production fell below 1 TWh (964 GWh).

Total emissions from the sector decreased by 3.91 million tonnes or 22.6% compared to the same period in 2022, as a result of the downward trend in emissions from all three fossil fuels. The largest part of the decrease was from lignite units (-2.19 million tonnes or -28.7% compared to 2022). The decrease in lignite was followed by a decrease in emissions from fossil gas (-1.38 million tonnes or -20.2%), while the smallest contribution in the reduction came from oil plants, whose emissions have decreased by 0.35 million tonnes (-12.2%) compared to the same period in 2022.

An even greater decrease of 7.93 million tonnes was recorded compared to the five-year average (-37.2%), where total emissions from the power sector from all three fuels were 21.28 million tonnes in the first eleven months of the year. This was primarily driven by the reduction in lignite production, resulting in a 6.46 million tonnes (-54.3%) reduction in emissions from lignite plants in the first ten months of the year compared to the five-year average (11.88 million tonnes). It is noted, that in the beginning of the five-year period (2018), lignite emissions (21 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 1.03 million tonnes (-15.8%) compared to the five-year average, followed by emissions from oil-fired plants which were reduced by 0.44 million tonnes (-15.1%).

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 ten months of 2023 of 2.95 million tonnes. The plant’s electricity production increased in November after four consecutive months of continuous decrease. In fact, it exceeded 50% of the lignite-based electricity production, generating in November a total of 217 GWh (or 57.5%) from units IV, V, which, in addition to electricity, they supply with thermal energy the district heating system of Kozani city.  In 2nd place was the new lignite unit at PPC “Ptolemaida 5” (1.53 million tonnes), which is now in full commercial operation. Since June it has been used as the main lignite production unit, with a significantly increased contribution compared to Agios Dimitrios, except November when production was lower than Agios Dimitrios, with a 42.5% share in total lignite-based electricity production (160.5 GWh). Due to this fact and the lower emission factor that “Ptolemaida 5” has, the power plant emitted 31% of the total emissions from the lignite units in November 2023.

Megalopolis IV lignite plant completes the list of the top-three lignite power plants. In the overall ranking, due to its zero production in October, it dropped one place , and thus came 5th, emitting 0.57 million tonnes in the 11 months to 2023.

In 3rd place in the ranking of the largest polluters in electricity production was the “Megalopoli V” fossil gas plant with emissions of 1.02 million tonnes. It was followed by the Lavrio IV-V gas plant with 0.71 million tonnes, while the high-efficiency combined heat and power (CHP) plant of Aluminum was ranked sixth with 0.56 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 ten months of 2023. In fact, Aterinolakkos (0.46 million tonnes) climbed to 8th place leaving behind 7 fossil gas plants and one lignite plant. This was followed by the Soroni station in Rhodes (0.32 million tonnes), and then the oil station in Kos (0.29 million tonnes), which moved up 3 places. In total, the top four oil plants in terms of emissions account for 58.1% 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). Despite the decrease, this performance was 4.7 percentage points or 1.07 million tonnes of CO2 far 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 ten months of 2023 are estimated at 10.18 million tonnes – an all-time low. Moreover, they appear to be down 24.9% compared to the same period in 2022, when total emissions from PPC plants were 13.6 million tonnes. The improvement is mainly attributed to the reduction of emissions from lignite plants (-2.19 million tonnes), secondarily to the reduction from PPC-owned fossil gas plants (-0.85 million tonnes), and finally to that from oil plants (-0.35 million tonnes).

Despite this progress, however, and given that the -57% sustainability clause requires emissions to be limited to 9.93 million tonnes by 2023, it is obvious that the company has already exhausted the total carbon budget for the year, already in November, exceeding it by 0.25 million tonnes.

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