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EU’s 10 coal-fired power stations biggest carbon emitters in 2022

 EU’s 10 coal-fired power stations biggest carbon emitters in 2022

The European Union’s (EU) plans to increase the clean energy share to reduce the carbon emissions suffered a setback as coal-fired power stations were responsible for over 60 per cent of power sector emissions in 2022, with Germany and Poland accounting for two-thirds of it.

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A new analysis by climate and energy think-tank Ember, which was released on Tuesday said that coal plants were the ten biggest carbon emitters in the EU in 2022, with those in Germany and Poland dominating the list.

The power sector accounted for 739 million tons of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) last year, about half of the EU’s Emissions Trading System (EU-ETS) emissions. The top 10 coal plants accounted for a quarter of all emissions from the power sector last year and 13 per cent of total EU emissions recorded in the ETS, according to Ember’s analysis.

The system covered over 10,000 installations across sectors including power, aviation, and other industries such as cement, steel, and oil refineries.

Members of the EU activated 26 coal-fired power projects with a generation capacity of 11GW on emergency standby in 2022 after the EU imposed sanctions on Russia for Invading Ukraine in February last year. 

Most of these plants were in Germany, where the government passed legislation to enlarge its coal power plant reserves as part of emergency energy measures to meet the demand in winter.

Ember’s analyst Harriet Fox said that coal plants were the repeat offenders of the EU’s dirty list and the faster Europe can get off coal power the better. Seven of the coal plants have been among the top 10 power plants every year for the last decade. 

Polluting Plants

PGE’s Belchatow power plant in Poland has topped the list as it has done since the ETS began in 2005. Germany’s RWE and EPH and Poland’s PGE dominated power sector emissions for the sixth consecutive year as they each emitted almost as much CO2e as Italy’s power sector in 2022.

Those three utilities accounted for 30 per cent of the EU’s power sector emissions, with lignite plants responsible for the majority of this, Ember said.

Besides the coal plants in Germany and Poland, Bulgaria’s Maritsa East 2 coal plant ranked the 10th largest emitter in the EU.

According to Ember’s analysis, while coal still dominates the EU’s emissions, the long-term decline of coal power is clear as coal emissions in 2022 were lower than a decade ago.

Coal power emissions in Europe rose by only 6 per cent last year compared with 2021, despite concerns that Europe would return to coal power during the global gas crisis exacerbated by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Ember said the two biggest EU-ETS coal power emitters, Germany, and Poland, have seen declines in coal power emissions, though Germany is moving more quickly.

Coal power emissions have fallen by 37 per cent in the last decade in Germany, which is targeting phasing out coal plants in 2030.

Poland, however, has yet to set a coal phase-out date and reduced its coal power emissions by only 12 per cent in the last 10 years. As a result, Poland had an increased share of 28 per cent of EU-ETS coal power sector emissions in 2022, up from 19 per cent a decade ago, while Germany’s share remained stable.

“Poland will soon be left as the EU’s biggest emitter if it doesn’t change course. While Germany is making strides to cut its coal dependency, Poland is yet to begin,” Fox added.

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