EU’s Dirty thirty

The thirty most CO2-polluting power plants in Europe also cause 20 per cent of the health costs of the sector.

A new report by CAN Europe and other NGOs exposes the top 30 CO2-polluting power plants in the EU. Kathrin Gutmann from CAN Europe and one of the authors of the report argues that “coal-fired power plants are the single biggest global source of greenhouse gas emissions. CO2 emissions from coal in the EU are still far too high, as shown by the EU’s ‘Dirty 30 power plants’ report. The EU needs to tackle coal head on, if it wants to successfully meet its own long-term climate targets.”

The EU’s coal problem, the report reveals, is caused by the increased use of existing coal assets. Many of the EU’s coal-fired plants are now running at or near full capacity, due to the relatively low price of coal compared to gas.

This has led to an increase in CO2 emissions from coal power plants in the EU, despite the rapid expansion of renewables and an overall decrease in total EU greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the report the heavy use of coal in some of the EU Member States with the highest populations, such as the UK and Germany, puts the EU in grave danger of not phasing out emissions from coal quickly enough, hence undermining the EU’s climate ambitions. Germany and the UK, which are the self-declared climate champions of the EU, have nine coal-fired power plants each in the list of the top 30 CO2-polluting thermal power plants in the EU. Germany uses more coal to generate electricity than any other EU country, while the UK comes third in absolute coal consumption for power after Poland.

Burning coal also releases pollutants that are associated with a range of human health problems including asthma and cancer. Julia Huscher from the Health and Environment Alliance argues that “each of the largest coal-power stations in Europe is responsible for hundreds of millions of euros in health costs. The sheer amount of pollution they release, apart from the CO2 emissions, contributes to higher levels of particulate matter, which is a major health concern. In addition, only 30 power plants cause 20 per cent of the health costs of the European power sector”. 

The report says that rapid phase-out of CO2 emissions from coal has to become a priority. Mona Bricke from Climate Alliance in Germany demands that “the next phase in Germany’s Energiewende must focus on how to transition away from coal. If Germany and the EU are serious about meeting their climate targets and transforming their power sector, a German coal phase-out is key. There is no way around that simple truth. The fact that 9 out of the 30 most CO2 emitting power plants are located in Germany, most of which burn lignite, is a case in point.” Julia Huscher concludes: “the phase-out of coal in Europe will be a win-win, because it will help to achieve clean air for more people, and avoid further health damage from climate change.”

Reinhold Pape

EU’s top CO2 polluting power plants in 2013

Ranking  Plant, Country
1 Bełchatów, Poland
2 Neurath, Germany
3 Niederaussem, Germany
4 Jänschwalde, Germany
5 Boxberg, Germany
6 Drax, UK
7 Weisweiler, Germany
8 Agios Dimitrios, Greece
9 Brindisi Sud, Italy
10 Lippendorf, Germay
11 Eggborough, UK
12 Schwarze Pumpe, Germany
13 Ratcliffe-on-Soar, UK
14 West Burton, UK
15 Eesti Elektrijaam, Estonia
16 Kozienice, Poland
17 Scholven, Germany
18 Cottam, UK
19 Turów, Poland
20 Torrevaldaliga, Italy
21 Longannet, UK
22 Kardia, Greece
23 Aberthaw, UK
24 Fiddler’s Ferry, UK
25 Rybnik, Poland
26 Ferrybridge “C”, UK
27 Sines, Portugal
28 Aboño, Spain
29 Mannheim, Germany
30 Maasvlakte, Netherlands

Per cent of electricity generated from coal.

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