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Efficiency of conventional thermal electricity and heat production

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Contents
 

Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)
  • No published assessments

Justification for indicator selection

The majority of thermal generation is produced using fossil fuels but can also include biomass, wastes, geothermal and nuclear. Associated environmental impacts at the point of energy generation are mainly related to greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. However, other environmental impacts, such as land use change, biodiversity loss, ground water pollution, oil spills in the marine environment, etc, occur during upstream activities of producing and transporting the primary resources or final waste disposal. Whilst the level of environmental impact depends on the particular type of fuel used and the extent to which abatement technologies are being employed, the greater the efficiency of the power plant, the lower the environmental impact for each unit of electricity produced (assuming that the increase in efficiency leads to an absolute decrease of fossil fuel input).  

Scientific references:

Indicator definition

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 energy efficiency of conventional thermal electricity production (which includes both public plants and autoproducers) is defined as the ratio of electricity and heat production to the energy input as a fuel. Fuels include solid fuels (i.e. coal, lignite and equivalents, oil and other liquid hydrocarbons, gas, thermal renewables (industrial and municipal waste, wood waste, biogas and geothermal energy) and other non-renewable waste.

Units

Units: Fuel input and electrical and heat output are measured in thousand tonnes of oil equivalent (ktoe)
Efficiency is measured as the ratio of fuel output to input (%)

Policy context and targets

Context description

Environmental context

The efficiency of electricity and heat production is an important factor since losses in transformation account for a substantial part of the primary energy consumption (see ENER 36). Higher efficiency of production therefore results in substantial reductions in primary energy consumption, hence reduction of environmental pressures due to avoided energy production.
However, the overall environmental impact of energy transformation has to be seen in the context of the type of fuel and the extent to which abatement technologies are used. Compliance with environmental legislation (for example the Large Combustion Plant Directive 2001/80/EC, the CARE package, etc) requires the application of a series of abatement technologies (e.g. to reduce SO2 emissions requires retrofitting the plant with flue-gas desulphurisation technology, carbon capture and storage to capture CO2 emissions, etc) increasing the energy consumption of the plant, thus reducing its efficiency. This is why it is important to promote highly efficient generation units, such as IGCC (Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle), which can operate at higher efficiencies.

Policy context

  • The European Commission published its proposal for an Energy Efficiency Directive on 22 June 2011. The proposed EED is expected to repeal two existing Directives: the Cogeneration Directive (2004/8/EC) and the Energy Services Directive (2006/32/EC).
  • Council adopted on 6 April 2009 the climate-energy legislative package containing measures to fight climate change and promote renewable energy. This package is designed to achieve the EU's overall environmental target of a 20 % reduction in greenhouse gases and a 20 % share of renewable energy in the EU's total energy consumption by 2020.The climate action and renewable energy (CARE) package includes the following main policy documents
  • Directive 2009/29/ec of the European parliament and of the Council amending directive 2003/87/ec so as to improve and extend the greenhouse gas emission allowance trading scheme of the community
  • Directive 2009/31/ec of the European parliament and of the Council on the geological storage of carbon dioxide
  • Directive 2009/28/ec of the European parliament and of the Council on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources
  • Community guidelines on state aid for environmental protection (2008/c 82/01)
  • Directive 2008/101/ec of the European parliament and of the Council amending directive 2003/87/ec so as to include aviation activities in the scheme for greenhouse gas Emission allowance trading within the community
  • Regulation (ec) no 443/2009 of the European parliament and of the Council setting emission performance standards for new passenger cars as part of the community’s integrated approach to reduce CO2 emissions from light-duty vehicles
  • Communication from the Commission; COM(2008) 771 final

The main objectives of this communication are to report on the current status of the combined heat and power generation (CHP or cogeneration), and to present possibilities for its development.

  • Detailed guidelines for the implementation and application of Annex II to Directive 2004/8/EC; 2008/952/EC

Guidelines for the calculation of the electricity from high-efficiency cogeneration.

  • Action Plan for Energy Efficiency: Realising the Potential ( COM(2006) 545)

The Commission will develop minimum binding energy efficiency requirements for electricity generation facilities, heating and cooling for facilities operating with less than 20 megawatts of power, and possibly for more powerful facilities too (not published yet).

  • Directive on the limitation of emissions of certain pollutants into the air from large combustion plants; Directive 2001/80/EC

Aims to control emissions of SOx, NOx and particulate matter from large (>50MW) combustion plants and hence favours the use of higher efficiency CCGT as opposed to coal plants.

Targets

No targets have been specified

Related policy documents

  • Climate action and renewable energy package (CARE Package)
    Combating climate change is a top priority for the EU. Europe is working hard to cut its greenhouse gas emissions substantially while encouraging other nations and regions to do likewise.
  • COM(2006) 545
    Action Plan for Energy Efficiency
  • COM(2008) 771
    Europe can save more energy by combined heat and power generation
  • Directive 2001/80/EC, large combustion plants
    Directive 2001/80/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2001 on the limitation of emissions of certain pollutants into the air from large combustion plants
  • DIRECTIVE 2004/8/EC
    DIRECTIVE 2004/8/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 11 February 2004 on the promotion of cogeneration based on a useful heat demand in the internal energy market and amending Directive 92/42/EEC
  • EEA greenhouse gas - data viewer
    The EEA GHG viewer provides easy access and analysis of the data contained in the Annual European Union greenhouse gas inventory and inventory report. The EEA GHG data viewer can show emission trends for the main sectors and allows for comparisons of emissions between different countries and activities.

Key policy question

Is the European energy production system becoming more efficient?

Methodology

Methodology for indicator calculation

Technical Information

  1. Data source:
    Fuel input to, and electricity and heat output from conventional thermal power stations, distric heating plants, and autoproducer plants: Eurostat (historical data) http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/.
  2. Description of data/Indicator definition
    The output from conventional thermal power stations consists of: 1) gross electricity generation and also of any heat sold to third parties (Combined heat and power plants) by conventional thermal public power stations (public or main activity), 2) district heating, and 3) utility power stations as well as autoproducer thermal power stations. The gross electricity generation is measured at the outlet of the main transformers, i.e. the consumption of electricity in the plant auxiliaries and in transformers is included. Public supply is defined as undertakings which generate electricity (and heat) for sale to third parties as their primary activity. They may be privately or publicly owned. Autoproducers are defined as undertakings which generate electricity wholly or partly for their use as an activity which supports their primary activity (e.g. industrial processes).

    The following datasets by Eurostat have been used to derive efficiencies from conventional thermal power stations, distric heating plants, and autoproducer plants:
      • B_101101 - Transformation output - Conventional Thermal Power Stations - Electrical Energy
      • B_101121 - Transformation output - Main Activity Conventional Thermal Power Stations - Electrical Energy
      • B_101122 - Transformation output - Autoproducer Conventional Thermal Power Stations - Electrical Energy
      • B_101101 - Transformation output - Conventional Thermal Power Stations - Derived Heat
      • B_101121 - Transformation output - Main Activity Conventional Thermal Power Stations - Derived Heat
      • B_101122 - Transformation output - Autoproducer Conventional Thermal Power Stations - Derived Heat
      • B_101101 - Transformation output - Conventional Thermal Power Stations - All Products
      • B_101121 - Transformation output - Main Activity Conventional Thermal Power Stations - All Products
      • B_101122 - Transformation output - Autoproducer Conventional Thermal Power Stations - All Products
      • B_101009 - Transformation input - District heating plants - All Products
      • B_101109 - Transformation output - District Heating Plants - All Products
      • B_101020 - Non-specified Transformation input - All Products
      • B_101001 - Transformation input - Conventional Thermal Power Stations - All Products
      • B_101021 - Transformation input in Main Activity Producer Conventional Power Stations - All Products
      • B_101022 - Transformation input in Autoproducer Conventional Power Stations - All Products

      The energy efficiency of conventional thermal electricity production (which includes both public plants and autoproducers) is defined as the ratio of electricity and heat production to the energy input as a fuel:

       
    n = Outputs / Inputs

    Fuels include solid fuels (i.e. coal, lignite and equivalents), oil and other liquid hydrocarbons, gas, thermal renewables (industrial and municipal waste, wood waste, biogas and geothermal energy) and other non-renewable waste.
    Units: Fuel input and electrical and heat output are measured in thousand tonnes of oil equivalent (ktoe)
    Efficiency is measured as the ratio of fuel output to input (%)

  3. Geographical coverage:
    The Agency had 33 member countries at the time of writing of this fact sheet. These are the 28 European Union Member States and Turkey, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. Information for Switzerland and Liecthenstein was not availabile and is not included in the above indicators
  4. Temporal coverage: 1990-2012.
  5. Methodology and frequency of data collection:
    Data collected annually.
    Eurostat metadata for energy statistics http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/statistics/metadata
  6. Methodology of data manipulation:
    Average annual rate of growth calculated using: [(last year / base year) ^ (1/number of years) –1]*100
    Efficiency of electricity and heat production = (electrical output + heat output)/fuel input
    The coding (used in the Eurostat New Cronos database) and specific components of the indicator are:
    Numerator:
    a) Electricity output from public thermal power stations 101121 (6000 electrical energy) + Heat output from public thermal power stations 101121 (5200 derived heat)
    b) Heat output from district heating thermal power stations 101109 (0000 all products)
    c) Electricity output from autoproducer thermal power station 101122 (6000 electrical energy) + Heat output from autoproducer thermal power station 101122 (5200 derived heat)
    Denominator:
    a) Input to public thermal power stations 101021 (0000 all products)
    b) Input to district heating thermal power stations 101009 (0000 all products)
    c) Input to autoproducer thermal power stations 101022 (0000 all products)


    Qualitative information

  7. Strengths and weaknesses (at data level)
    Data have been traditionally compiled by Eurostat through the annual Joint Questionnaires, shared by Eurostat and the International Energy Agency, following a well established and harmonised methodology. Methodological information on the annual Joint Questionnaires and data compilation can be found in Eurostat's web page for metadata on energy statistics. http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/statistics/metadata See also information related to the Energy Statistics Regulation http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/energy/introduction

  8. Reliability, accuracy, robustness, uncertainty (at data level):
    Indicator uncertainty (historic data)
    The efficiency of electricity production is calculated as the ratio of electricity output to the total fuel input. However, the input to conventional thermal power plants cannot be disaggregated into separate input for heat and input for electricity production. Therefore the efficiency rate of electricity and heat production equals the ratio of both electricity and heat production to fuel input, which assumes there is an efficiency rate for heat production. Wherever efficiencies above 100% were detected, this has been mentioned in the notes to the figures and in texts with this indicator.

  9. Overall scoring - historical data (1 = no major problems, 3 = major reservations):
    Relevance: 1
    Accuracy: 2
    Comparability over time: 2
    Comparability over space: 1

Methodology for gap filling

No methodology for gap filling has been specified. Probably this info has been added together with indicator calculation.

Methodology references

No methodology references available.

Data specifications

EEA data references

  • No datasets have been specified here.

External data references

Data sources in latest figures

Uncertainties

Methodology uncertainty

The efficiency of electricity production is calculated as the ratio of electricity output to the total fuel input. However, the input to conventional thermal power plants cannot be disaggregated into separate input for heat and input for electricity production. Therefore the efficiency rate of electricity and heat production equals the ratio of both electricity and heat production to fuel input, which assumes there is an efficiency rate for heat production.
Also, electricity data (unlike that for overall energy consumption) for 1990 refers to the western part of Germany only, so there is a break in the series from 1990-1992.

Data sets uncertainty

Strengths and weaknesses (at data level)
Data have been traditionally compiled by Eurostat through the annual Joint Questionnaires, shared by Eurostat and the International Energy Agency, following a well established and harmonised methodology. Methodological information on the annual Joint Questionnaires and data compilation can be found in Eurostat's web page for metadata on energy statistics.

http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/statistics/metadata See also information related to the Energy Statistics Regulation http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/energy/introduction


Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Further work

Short term work

Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.

Long term work

Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.

General metadata

Responsibility and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Anca-Diana Barbu

Ownership

European Environment Agency (EEA)

Identification

Indicator code
ENER 019
Specification
Version id: 3
Primary theme: Energy Energy

Permalinks

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Permalink to latest version
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Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled once per year in October-December (Q4)

Classification

DPSIR: Driving force
Typology: Efficiency indicator (Type C - Are we improving?)

Geographic coverage

Filed under:

Comments

European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone: +45 3336 7100