Efficiency of conventional thermal electricity and heat production
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).
- EEA (2015) - Greenhouse gas data viewer
- Eurocoal (2010) – Guaranteeing Energy for Europe – How can coal contribute? European Association for Coal and Lignite AISBL
- Euroheat4, Executive Summary Report
- Energy, transport and environment indicators, EuroStat (2013) ISSN 1725-4566
- OECD (2005) International Energy Technology Collaboration and Climate Change Mitigation, Case Study 4: Clean Coal Technologies
- Euroheat and Power (2013). District Heating and Cooling country by country Survey 2013.
The energy efficiency of conventional thermal electricity production (which includes both public plants and autoproducers) is defined as the ratio of transformation outputs from conventional thermal power stations ( electricity and heat) to transformation input to conventional thermal power stations (%).
The 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 power stations (public or main activity), district heating, and 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).
Fuel inputs 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.
Fuel input and electrical and heat output are measured in thousand tonnes of oil equivalent (ktoe)
Policy context and targets
The indicator shows the efficiency of electricity and heat production from conventional thermal plants. A distinction is made between public conventional thermal plants (i .e. main activity producers), district heating conventional thermal plants and autoproducers conventional thermal plants. Public thermal plants mainly produce electricity (and heat) for public use. Autoproducers produce electricity (and heat) for private use, for instance in industrial processes.
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.
Directive 2012/27/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on energy efficiency, amending Directives 2009/125/EC and 2010/30/EU and repealing Directives 2004/8/EC and 2006/32/EC. The Directive established a set of binding measures to help the EU reach its 20% energy efficiency target by 2020. Under the Directive, all EU countries are required to use energy more efficiently at all stages of the energy chain from its production to its final consumption. To reach the EU's 20% energy efficiency target by 2020, individual EU countries have set their own indicative national energy efficiency targets. Depending on country preferences, these targets are based on primary and/or final energy consumption, primary and/or final energy savings, or energy intensity. New national measures have to ensure major energy savings for consumers and industry. The European Commission published guidance notes, COM(2013) 762.to help the Member States to implement the Energy Efficiency Directive,
Council Directive 2013/12/EU of 13 May 2013 adapting Directive 2012/27/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council on energy efficiency, by reason of the accession of the Republic of Croatia.
Commission Guidance COM(2013) 762, Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and Council, Implementing the Energy Efficiency Directive.
Earlier legislation: in 2009 Council adopted 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.
The Directive 2012/27/eu on energy efficiency establishes a common framework of measures for the promotion of energy efficiency within the European Union in order to achieve the headline target of 20% reduction in primary energy consumption by 2020. Member States are requested to set indicative targets. It is up to the Member states whether they base their targets on primary energy consumption, final energy consumption, primary or final energy savings or energy intensity. Art.14 (Promotion of efficiency in heating and cooling) and Art.15 (Energy transformation, transmission and distribution) are directly relevant to the indicator.
Related policy documents
Action Plan for Energy Efficiency
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
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.
Eurocoal (2010) - Guaranteeing Energy for Europe — How can coal contribute?
The energy supply of the 21st century is more than ever shaped by coal. Almost all developing and threshold countries trust that coal is a longterm, reliable basis for the development of the economy and society. In industrialised countries, coal remains the key energy for a reliable supply of electricity and for heavy industries. According to estimates of the International Energy Agency (IEA), coal will have the same importance as oil for the world-wide supply of energy until 2030.
Euroheat and Power (2013). District Heating and Cooling country by country Survey 2013
This 2013 survey reflects the current position, possibilities and trends of CHP/DHC from over 30 countries around the globe. It is an invaluable companion to all who supported by take an interest in DHC.
Euroheat4 - Executive summary report
The document is a summary of the actions and outcomes of the ‘EcoHeat4EU’ project supported by the European Commission’s Intelligent Energy Europe programme
EuroStat(2013) - Energy, transport and environment indicators
The 2013 edition presents facts and figures from the Energy, Transport and Environment sectors, all in a single volume. With a view of the growing global political importance of issues such as climate change and energy security, the three sectors have become increasingly interconnected. This creates the need for a comprehensive approach, comprising reliable and comparable statistical data, necessary for the better understanding of the complexity of the issues,for sound policy-making and the setting of effective measures.
OECD (2005) - International Energy Technology Collaboration and Climate Change Mitigation
Case Study 4: Clean Coal Technologies
The EU climate and energy (CARE) Package
The climate and energy package is a set of binding legislation which aims to ensure the European Union meets its ambitious climate and energy targets for 2020. These targets, known as the "20-20-20" targets, set three key objectives for 2020: A 20% reduction in EU greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels; Raising the share of EU energy consumption produced from renewable resources to 20%; A 20% improvement in the EU's energy efficiency.
Key policy question
Is the European energy production system becoming more efficient?
Methodology for indicator calculation
- 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
- 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
- Methodology and frequency of data collection:
- Data collected annually.
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/.
- Methodology of data manipulation:
Average annual rate of growth calculated using: [(last year / base year) ^ (1/number of years) –1]*100The coding (used in the Eurostat New Cronos database, see table above).
Efficiency of electricity and heat production in main activity conventional thermal power plants = (electrical output + heat output)/fuel input
Efficiency for district heating = transformation output district heating plants divided by transformation input district heating plants
Efficiency for autoproducers = transformation output in autoproducers conventional power stations divided by transformation input autoproducers conventional power stations
Methodology for gap filling
No methodology for gap filling has been specified. Probably this info has been added together with indicator calculation.
No methodology references available.
EEA data references
- No datasets have been specified here.
External data references
Data sources in latest figures
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)
Indicator uncertainty (historic data)
Efficiencies include electrical outputs and heat outputs: 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.
Efficiencies above 100%: Wherever possible country specific data has been scrutinized for efficiencies above 100% which indicates incorrect input and/or output data. Wherever this has been detected, country data was removed from the indicators as mentioned in the notes to the figures and in texts with this indicator. The data collection of inputs and outputs and subsequent derivation of efficiencies for District Heating and Autoproducers power plants revealed efficiencies over 100% for a number of EU28 countries. These incorrect data are removed from the indicators presented in Figures 5a, 5b, 6a and 6b, see the notes to the Figures. However, these incorrect data are probably also included in the EU28 aggregated input and output data that were taken from Eurostat and used in the trend Figures 2 and 3. A detailed analysis of Eurostat data is needed to correct aggregated EU28 data for incorrect data.
Overall scoring - historical data (1 = no major problems, 3 = major reservations):
- Relevance: 1
- Accuracy: 2
- Comparability over time: 2
- Comparability over space: 1
No uncertainty has been specified
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.
Responsibility and ownership
EEA Contact InfoAnca-Diana Barbu
Frequency of updates
ClassificationDPSIR: Driving force
Typology: Efficiency indicator (Type C - Are we improving?)
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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