Increase in emissions from coal return will be ‘negligible’, report says

Increase in emissions from coal return will be ‘negligible’, report says

Plans by four EU countries to run coal-fired power plants in the event of a severe disruption to their Russian gas supply will have negligible climate impact, according to a report by the climate think tank. Ember Energy Issues released Wednesday (July 13).

The analysis, titled “Coal not making a comeback: Europe predicts ‘negligible’ increase”, examines the climate impact of projects in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and France to resort to coal in the event of serious disruptions in gas supply this winter and next year.

The European Commission believes that Russia is using gas cuts and EU supply cuts as a tool to ” blackmail “. EU countries are working to reduce gas demand and find alternatives to Russian fossil fuels.

One way to reduce demand is to store the gas normally used for electricity generation and replace it with coal-fired electricity. But this comes with an increase in carbon (CO2) emissions.

“These are temporary measures that will not compromise Europe’s long-term climate commitments. However, this crisis demonstrates that fossil fuels do not bring energy security”according to the report.

Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and France are all planning to reopen coal-fired power plants.

Recommissioning of coal-fired power plants in France

France will reopen a 595 megawatt (MW) coal unit for the winter.

There are only 2 coal-fired power plants left in operation in France. They represent 0.7% of our electricity production over the year […] We will close the coal-fired power plants and we will offset every ton of CO2 emitted” warned Tuesday (July 12) the Minister of Energy Transition, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, on the set of LCI.

In Austria, the Mellach plant, with a capacity of 246 MW, will be temporarily withdrawn from circulation and will run on coal rather than gas.

The Netherlands last month changed legislation preventing coal-fired power plants from operating at more than 35% capacity. They will be able to operate at full capacity again until the end of 2023.

8 GW pending in Germany

At the same time, Germany has the largest amount of standby capacity. On July 8, its parliament passed the Replacement Power Plant Provisions Act, allowing about 8 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired power plants to be banked.

Overall, these plans would add just under 14 GW of coal-fired power plants, or 12% to the EU’s existing coal-fired power plant fleet (109 GW) and 1.5% to the total capacity of EU installed electricity generation (920 GW), according to the analysis.

The report explains that even in the worst-case scenario of the plants operating throughout 2023 at 65% capacity, they would only produce 60 terawatt-hours of electricity, enough to power Europe for about a year. week. This would correspond to 1.3% of total EU emissions in 2021.

Ideally, there would be no increase in the use of coal, but in the current situation, you have to put things into perspective, report editor Sarah Brown told EURACTIV.

“Should we be worried? Yes. From a climate perspective, we don’t want the coal to be burned. We’d rather see all fossil fuels go down, but if we put that into perspective with the immediate situation we find ourselves in, then we shouldn’t be too worried.”she adds.

Accelerating the transition to clean energy

The European Commission’s plan to move away from fossil fuels, dubbed REPowerEU, plans to diversify fossil gas imports and focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Facing fears, Ms Brown said the momentum for a clean energy transition was still well maintained.

Another Ember report showed that 19 EU governments have stepped up decarbonization in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, energy crisis and Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“The current crisis has acted as a catalyst for a faster European transition to clean energy” announces the new report. Thus, the new German government raised the renewable electricity target to 80% by 2030 in November 2021, in the context of the energy crisis.

“Even in Eastern European member states, we are seeing either an increased commitment to renewable energy or the continuation of commitments to phase out coal”adds Ms. Brown.


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