The carbon footprint of electricity production

The emissions of the Greek electricity sector per fuel and the trend for the total monthly sectoral emissions from January 2013 -when the emission allowances in the EU ETS ceased to be free – until today.

According to data from the European Environment Agency,  between 1990 and 2020, electricity and heat production from lignite, fossil gas and oil combustion plants in Greece were responsible for the release into the atmosphere of 1378 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2eq ). This corresponds to 39.4% of total greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors of the national economy for the same period, while the corresponding share in the EU-27 is significantly lower (25.4%).

This picture has changed in recent years as CO2 emissions from the power sector started to decrease. This trend has been increasingly visible  since 2013 when, under directive 2003/87/EC for the Emissions Trading System (ETS), CO2 emission allowances were no longer offered for free to thermal power plants in the EU.  Thus, their operating cost, particularly that of lignite plants which emit more CO2 per unit of electricity produced, became progressively higher.  At the same time, the rapid fall in the cost of renewable electricity production has led and continues to lead to the substitution of fossil fuels by renewables, resulting  in a significant reduction of the national power sector’s carbon footprint in recent years.

Due to the maturity of RES technologies, the ever increasing operating costs of thermal plants and the broader European climate policy, the power sector is expected to be the first to decarbonize  en route to climate neutrality by 2050, a target to which Greece committed itself with the first national climate law in 2022. According to the National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP), This reduction of the power sector’s carbon footprint is expected to be frontbearing,  since the sector’s emissions will be limited to 7 million tonnes at maximum by 2030 from about 20 million tons in 2020.

Due to the crucial role of the electricity sector for the country’s overall climate performance, the Green Tank monitors and analyzes on a monthly basis the emissions from all thermal power plants in the interconnected network and non-interconnected islands, obtaining data from:

  1. The Emissions Trading System database containing the annual emissions data of all combustion plants;
  2. the official monthly Energy Reports of the Greek IPTO (ADMIE) for electricity production in the interconnected network,
  3. HEDNO’s monthly data for the electricity production in the Non-Interconnected Islands (NII),

and implementing a specific methodology and assumptions that are required to forecast the monthly emissions of all thermal plants in the country.

The monthly analysis presents the CO2 emissions per fuel (lignite, fossil gas and oil) and per thermal power plant. Additionally, each month the analysis includes estimates of the remaining carbon budget of the Public Power Corporation’s thermal plants in order for the company to comply with the sustainability clauses set in the bond loans it has signed in 2021.