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You are here: Home / Data and maps / Indicators / Efficiency of conventional thermal electricity generation / Efficiency of conventional thermal electricity generation (ENER 019) - Assessment published Apr 2013

Efficiency of conventional thermal electricity generation (ENER 019) - Assessment published Apr 2013

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Generic metadata

Topics:

Energy Energy (Primary topic)

Tags:
electricity | energy | heat
DPSIR: Driving force
Typology: Efficiency indicator (Type C - Are we improving?)
Indicator codes
  • ENER 019
Dynamic
Temporal coverage:
1990-2010
 
Contents
 

Key policy question: Is the European energy production system becoming more efficient?

Key messages

The efficiency of electricity and heat production from conventional thermal power plants in EU-27countries improved between 1990 and 2010 by 5.8 percentage points (from 45.4% in 1990 to 51.2% in 2010). The non EU EEA countries (exl. Norway[1]) show a similar trend with an improvement of 5.6 percentage points (from 45.2% in 1990 to 50.8% in 2010). Between 2005 and 2010, there was a decline in efficiency of electricity and heat production from conventional thermal power plants of 1.1 percentage points (from 52.3% in 2005 to 51.2% in 2010) in the EU-27 because of lower heat production similar to non-EU EEA countries where efficiency declined by 1.3% over the same period.


[1] Norway, displays efficiencies higher than 100% for thermal generation due to the extensive use of electric boilers for heat production. In the Eurostat statistics, the heat is included in the output, while the electricity input is not. For power plants the consumption of electricity is attributed to the energy sector while partly may be in fact used as input for heat. For these reasons, Norway was excluded from the calculations.

Efficiency of conventional thermal electricity and heat production

Note: Output from conventional thermal power stations consists of gross electricity generation and also of any heat sold to third parties (combined heat and power plants) by conventional thermal public utility power stations as well as autoproducer thermal power stations. The figure on the left is including district heat and the figure on the right is excluding district heat. Left figure: Efficiency of conventional thermal electricity and heat production (including district heat). Right figure: Efficiency of conventional thermal electricity and heat production (excluding district heat)

Data source:
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Efficiency (electricity and heat) production from conventional thermal plants, 2005, 2010

Note: Output from conventional thermal power stations consists of gross electricity generation and also of any heat sold to third parties (combined heat and power plants) by conventional thermal public utility power stations as well as autoproducer thermal power stations.

Data source:
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Efficiency (electricity and heat) from public conventional thermal plants, 1990, 2010

Note: Output from conventional thermal power stations consists of gross electricity generation and also of any heat sold to third parties (combined heat and power plants) by conventional thermal public utility power stations as well as autoproducer thermal power stations.

Data source:
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Efficiency (electricity and heat) from autoproducers conventional thermal plants, 1990, 2010

Note: Output from conventional thermal power stations consists of gross electricity generation and also of any heat sold to third parties (combined heat and power plants) by conventional thermal public utility power stations as well as autoproducer thermal power stations. Due to inconsistencies in the Eurostat data set Bulgaria, Greece, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Norway are excluded for all years (efficiencies >100%). For Cyprus, Iceland and Malta data on autoproducers is not available, therefore they are also excluded for all years.

Data source:
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Key assessment

The average energy efficiency of conventional thermal electricity and heat production in the EU-27 improved over the period 1990 and 2010 by 5.8 percentage points to reach 51.2% in 2010 (49.6 % excluding district heating). The main increase was seen between 1990 and 2005 with an increase of 7.0 percentage points (from 45.4% in 1990 to 52.3% in 2005). Between 2005 and 2010, there was slight decrease in efficiency of electricity and heat production from conventional thermal power plants and district heating plants of 1.1 percentage points (from 52.3% in 2005 to 51.2% in 2010) because of lower heat production (Figure 1a and 1b). In Figure 1a and 1b, the drop in 2007 is due to decreased electrical energy output from conventional thermal power stations in Germany. Germany reports a 46% drop between 2006 and 2007 in heat output from Conventional Thermal Power Stations.

For public thermal power plants the average efficiency increased in most EU-27 countries over the period 1990-2010, resulting in a net efficiency of 50.4% in 2010 (48.6% excluding district heating). Between 2005 and 2010, the average energy efficiency of public thermal power plants increased by 0.1 percentage points (from 50.3% in 2005 to 50.4% in 2010). For autoproducers the average efficiency also increased in most EU-27 countries over the period 1990-2010, resulting in a net efficiency of 57.9 % by 2010.The higher efficiency for autoproducers is largely explained by the fact that the installations of autoproducers are often designed to be more suitable for the heat and electricity demand on a location. (See Figure 2b and Figure 2c). There was a fall in efficiency between 2005 and 2010 by 8.8 percentage points (from 66.6% in 2005 to 57.9% in 2010) due to Germany reporting a 100% drop between 2006 and 2007 in heat output from Autoproducer Conventional Thermal Power Stations. In fact, Germany reports no values from 2007 onwards. CHP is a technology used to improve energy efficiency through the generation of heat and power in the same plant. Thus CHP reduces the need for additional fuel combustion for the generation of heat and provides a large potential for reduction of CO2 emissions (Eurostat 2011).

Although overall improvements in electricity and heat generation efficiency were seen over the period 1990 to 2010, a marginal stagnation in the late 1990s and a decline in efficiency in the last four years was observed. This was due primarily to an increased utilisation of existing lower efficiency coal plants  due to fast increase in electricity consumption, which is growing at an average rate of 1.4 % per year since 1990 (see ENER 16). Over half of this electricity (50.4 % in 2010) is produced from coal, gas and oil (see ENER 36, ENER 38)[2].

    Larger benefits (fuel savings, environmental benefits, efficiency) could also be achieved by using CHP combined with district heating and cooling. In Europe there are currently more than 5000 district heating systems supplying more than 10% of the total EU-27 heat demand. Market penetration of district heating is unevenly distributed with Nordic countries having the highest penetration rate of district heating, primarily used in the residential sector, but with Poland and Germany having the largest amount of district heating delivery. High growth rates are achieved in Austria and Italy. Not all countries use district heating just for the residential sector. In Austria and Norway the service sector uses for a large percentage of district heating whereas in the Czech Republic the industry sector is also making use of district heating.

    In cities like Copenhagen, Helsinki, Warsaw, Vilnius, Riga as much as 90% of residential heat demands are satisfied by district heating. The European share of district heating in industry is about 3.5% with higher shares (10-15%) in Hungary, Poland, Finland, Netherlands, and Czech Republic. District cooling currently has a share of 2% of total cooling market in Europe (some 3TWh) but this share is increasing fast (over the last decade the growth in installed capacity increased ten fold). Sweden for instance succeeded in achieving 25% district cooling market share for commercial and institutional buildings. Cities that have reached or are on the way towards reaching 50% district cooling shares include Paris, Helsinki, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Vienna, Barcelona, Copenhagen (DHC+technology platform, 2012).

    Between 2005 and 2010, the greatest efficiency improvements in both electricity and electricity and heat production (including district heating) for conventional thermal power stations and district heating plants, occurred in Belgium (an increase of 6.9%, Malta (5%) and the Cyprus (3.9%), see Figure 2a. Decreases in the efficiency between 2005 and 2010 of electricity and heat production were seen in 14 out of the 32 EEA countries with the largest decrease occurring in Norway, Germany and France, however, there are sizeable fluctuations which indicate these data may be less reliable (See Figure 1 and 2a). These fluctuations can occur due to the methodology used and efficiency assumed when calculating energy statistics for different types of fuels, i.e. electricity is considered a primary commodity from hydro, wind, solar; heat is considered from geothermal and solar with assumed 100% efficiency. Whereas for nuclear a fixed efficiency of 33% considered in the energy statistics. Thus depending on the changing fuel mix used by countries over time, these efficiency assumptions clearly have an impact on the increase or decrease of overall efficiency improvements.

    Among the EEA, non-EU countries, Turkey registered the highest efficiency gain for conventional thermal power stations and district heating plants. For Turkey the efficiency increased in 2010 by 12.6% compared to 1990.

    Efficiencies of fossil-fired electricity and heat production in different countries have been compared in a study by IEA (2008). It appears that efficiency of Electricity Production from Coal in Public Electricity and CHP Plants in European countries (e.g. Luxembourg, Italy, Belgium and United Kingdom) are higher than the worldwide average. The combined worldwide average of efficiencies for all fossil fuels is 36%. Efficiency of Electricity Production from all Fossil Fuels in Public Electricity and CHP Plants in India and China are 28% and 32% compared to those in the investigated European countries. The efficiencies in the USA are 1% above the average level.

     

       


       

      [2] Specific details of emission levels from electricity generating plants can be obtained for a variety of pollutants at the European Pollutant Emission Register.

      Data sources

      More information about this indicator

      See this indicator specification for more details.

      Contacts and ownership

      EEA Contact Info

      Anca-Diana Barbu

      Ownership

      EEA Management Plan

      2012 2.8.1 (note: EEA internal system)

      Dates

      Frequency of updates

      Updates are scheduled every 1 year in October-December (Q4)
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      European Environment Agency (EEA)
      Kongens Nytorv 6
      1050 Copenhagen K
      Denmark
      Phone: +45 3336 7100