The carbon footprint of electricity production – December 2023

The monthly emissions from each power plant in Greece are estimated based on the latest available electricity production data (December 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

It is estimated that a total of 14.7 million tonnes of CO2 were emitted in the electricity production sector in 2023. Regarding monthly emissions, the highest emissions were recorded in February (1.42 million tonnes), as it was the month with the highest monthly lignite production of the year (611 GWh). In addition, for six out of the twelve months of the year, emissions from fossil gas plants exceeded those from lignite plants. Their largest monthly difference was recorded in September (+0.37 million tonnes more from gas plants), as it was the month with the lowest historical lignite production (187 GWh) since April 2022 (176 GWh). However, cumulative emissions from lignite plants (6.08 million tonnes & 41.4% share) for the twelve months of 2023 exceeded those from gas fired plants (5.93 million tonnes & 40.4% share) by 0.15 million tonnes. This difference is very small, especially when compared to the difference in electricity production between the two fuels. In 2023, electricity production from fossil gas (14.6 TWh) was 10.1 TWh higher than lignite production (4.5 TWh), which was the lowest since the 1970s. It is worth noting that the difference in emissions between the two fuels in 2022 was almost 1 million tonnes in favour of lignite.

Total emissions from the sector decreased by 4.28 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 (-2.39 million tonnes or -28.2% compared to 2022). The decrease in lignite was followed by a decrease in emissions from fossil gas (-1.56 million tonnes or -20.8%), while the smallest contribution in the reduction came from oil plants, whose emissions have decreased by 0.33 million tonnes (-11.1%) compared to 2022.

An even greater decrease of 8.88 million tonnes was recorded compared to the five-year average (-37.7%), when total emissions from the sector from all three fuels were in average 23.58 million tonnes. This was primarily driven by the reduction in lignite production, resulting in a 7.21 million tonnes (-54.3%) reduction in emissions from lignite plants in 2023 compared to the five-year average (13.3 million tonnes). It is noted, that in the beginning of the five-year period (2018), lignite emissions (23.53 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 1.2 million tonnes (-16.8%) compared to the five-year average, followed by emissions from oil-fired plants which were reduced by 0.47 million tonnes (-14.9%).

Emissions per thermal power plant

In terms of the distribution of emissions among power plants, the first by far was again the lignite power plant of Agios Dimitrios, with cumulative emissions 3.37 million tonnes in 2023, 74.3% less than what it emitted 10 years ago (13.1 million tonnes). As it has been the largest lignite station in the country, Agios Dimitrios was always the leader in electricity production, except some months during 2023, when this picture changed. This was due to the utilization of PPC’s new lignite unit Ptolemaida 5, which for five out of the twelve months of 2023 produced more electricity than any other lignite unit. Because of this, Ptolemaida 5 was placed 2nd in the ranking with 1.74 million tonnes[1]. The top three lignite plants were completed by the Megalopolis IV lignite plant, which after two months of zero production, was put back into operation in December. It is ranked 5th in the overall ranking, emitting 0.6 million tonnes in 2023.

In 3rd place in the ranking of the largest polluters in electricity production was the “Megalopoli V” fossil gas plant with emissions of 1.1 million tonnes. It was followed by the Lavrio IV-V gas plant with 0.74 million tonnes, while the high-efficiency combined heat and power (CHP) plant of Aluminum was ranked 6th with 0.61 million tonnes.

In the non-interconnected Islands, two of the three oil stations located in Crete (Atherinolakkos and Linoperamata) led the emissions with 1.02 million tonnes in 2023. In fact, Aterinolakkos (0.57 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 (0.31 million tonnes), and the oil station in Chania (0.26 million tonnes). In total, the top four oil plants in terms of emissions account for 59.3% of total emissions in the non-interconnected islands.

Comparing the ranking of the stations in 2023 with that of 2022, it is observed that while Agios Dimitrios remains 1st in both years, the Megalopolis IV mineral gas station dropped from 2nd (in 2022) to 6th (in 2023), giving its place to Ptolemaida 5. In the top five of the most polluting plants in 2022, was also the Meliti I lignite plant, which in 2023 fell to 14th place.  The place of Meliti I was taken by Aluminum (5th in 2023), which in 2022 was lower in 8th place.

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 2023 are estimated at 11.24 million tonnes (76.5% of the emissions from the whole electricity production sector). Moreover, they appear to be down 24.7% compared to the same period in 2022, when total emissions from PPC plants were 14.92 million tonnes. The improvement is mainly attributed to the reduction of emissions from lignite plants (-2.39 million tonnes), secondarily to the reduction from PPC-owned fossil gas plants (-0.97 million tonnes), and finally to that from oil plants (-0.33 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 had already exhausted the total carbon budget for the year, already in November, exceeding it by 1.31 million tonnes for the whole year (2023).

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

[1] Since for Ptolemaida 5 there are still no historical emission data in the ETS, the emission factor of the unit used to estimate its emissions is the one indicated in the relevant Environmental Impact Study (1tn/MWh).