Efficiency of conventional thermal electricity and heat production
The efficiency of electricity and heat production in public conventional thermal power plants in the EU28 countries increased from 42.2% in 1990 to 48.0% in 2013. In the non-EU EEA countries, efficiency increased from 34.7% in 1990 to 44.4% in 2013. Between 2005 and 2013, the efficiency of public conventional thermal power plants more or less stabilised in both the EU28 and the non-EU EEA countries.
The efficiency of electricity and heat production from autoproducer conventional thermal power plants in the EU and non-EU EEA countries decreased by about 5 percentage points, from about 60% in 2005 to about 55% in 2013.
Is the European energy production system becoming more efficient?
- The average efficiency for public conventional thermal power plants increased in most EU-28 countries between 1990 and 2013, resulting in an EU average efficiency of 48.0% in 2013 (see Figure 1). Between 2005 and 2013, the average efficiency of public electricity and heat conventional thermal power plants increased up to 2010 and decreased in 2011 and 2012. In Norway and Turkey, the average efficiency of public conventional thermal power plants improved from 34.7% in 1990 to 47.7% in 2005, followed by a decrease to 44.4% in 2013.
- The increase in efficiency between 2005 and 2010 is explained by the increased use of natural gas (natural gas power plants have relatively higher efficiencies) and the decreased use of coal, lignite and nuclear fuels (coal, lignite and nuclear power plants have relatively lower efficiencies) (see ENER038). After 2010, the average efficiency of public electricity and heat conventional thermal power plants decreased due to the increased use of coal, lignite and biomass fuels, and the decreased use of natural gas fuels. About half of the decrease in efficiency between 2010 and 2012 could be attributed to the changes in fuel mix (see ENER038). In addition, the increased use of coal and lignite may have led to the increased use of existing lower efficiency coal plants.
- For district heating conventional thermal power plants, the average efficiency in the EU-28 does not show a clear trend (See Figure 2). The increases in the EU average efficiency in the nineties were driven by efficiency increases in some Eastern European countries, such as Poland, which, that with a 40% share, was the most important country in EU district heating in 1990. The fall in EU average efficiency in 2003 was mainly caused by a drop in efficiency of 19 percentage points in district heating plants in Germany. The average efficiency for district heating conventional thermal power plants in the EU28 in 2013 was 82.8%, almost at the same level as in 2005. Efficiencies of district heating conventional thermal power plants from non-EU EEA countries could be derived from the energy statistics for Norway only. These efficiencies were often over 100% indicating incomplete or wrong data. Hence, total efficiencies in district heating for the EEA as a group have been excluded.
- For autoproducers, the average efficiency in the EU28 increased between 1990 and 2013, with a final figure of 55.3% by 2013 (See Figure 3). The higher efficiency for autoproducers compared to public conventional thermal power plants is largely explained by the fact that the installations of autoproducers are often designed to suit the heat and electricity demand of a specific location. There was a greater increase in efficiency from about 50% in 1999 to 55% in 2001 (more than 5 percentage points) between 1999 and 2001 (see Figure 3). This is partly explained by the substantial increases in efficiency in France, where the heat output of autoproducers increased strongly between 1999 and 2001, resulting in an increase of 22 percentage points in France’s autoproducer's overall efficiency. There was subsequently a fall of about 5 percentage points in efficiency between 2005 and 2013, from 60% in 2005 to 55% in 2013 (see figure 3). This is largely explained by substantial reductions in efficiency in France, Spain and a number of smaller EU countries in that period. In France, for example, the heat output of autoproducers decreased by almost 90% between 2005 and 2013, while electricity output decreased by just 30%. The total efficiency for autoproducers in France dropped by 25 percentage points, from 63% to 38%, over the same period. The situation in France may be attributed to a change in the allocation of energy use for heat production between autoproducers and district heating in France.
- In 2013, the top three countries with the highest efficiencies in electricity and heat production from public conventional thermal power stations were Norway, Sweden and Latvia (see Figure 4a). The difference between the countries with the highest and lowest efficiencies was over 40 percentage points. This was mainly caused by differences in the fuel mix used in electricity production (see ENER 038). Between 2005 and 2013, the two countries registering an efficiency improvement of more than 6 percentage points were Malta and Lithuania (see Figure 4b). Decreases in efficiency between 2005 and 2013 were seen in 14 EEA countries, with the largest decreases occurring in Portugal, Latvia and Finland (between 4 and 7 percentage points). This ranking of countries according to their efficiency improvements is sensitive to the period that is taken into account (e.g. 2005-2010 compared to 2005-2013).
- In 2010, 75% of district heating used in the EU27 was recycled heat from electricity production, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes with the rest being generated directly from fossil fuels and renewables (Euroheat&Power, 2013). So, increasing the share of district heating will have significant environmental benefits. In 2013, the top three countries with the highest efficiencies in district heating were Finland, the Netherlands and Slovenia (see Figure 5a). Between 2005 and 2013, the top three countries with the greatest efficiency improvements in district heating from conventional thermal power stations seemed to be Belgium, France and Slovenia (see Figure 5b). Decreases in efficiency between 2005 and 2013 were seen in eight EEA countries, with the largest decreases occurring in Romania, Latvia and Estonia. In Romania for example, some of these plants operate at low capacity factors. Because some of these installations are old, they may not permit the proper redistribution of the thermal agent throughout the network when customers disconnect from the network permanently. In these cases, the plants operate in suboptimal regimes. We also found an indication that the allocation of energy use for heat production between autoproducers and district heating in France disturbed the statistics. France’s reported efficiency improvements in district heating between 2005 and 2013 on the one hand, and the strong decreases in reported heat output by autoproducer's conventional thermal power on the other (see Figure 6b), may indicate that changes occurred in the allocation of heat outputs.
- In 2013, the top three countries with the highest efficiencies in autoproducers conventional thermal power stations were Luxembourg, Hungary and Finland, with efficiencies more than twice as high as efficiencies in the United Kingdom and France (see Figure 6a). Between 2005 and 2013, the top three countries with the highest efficiency improvements in autoproducers conventional thermal power stations seemed to have occurred in Bulgaria, Hungary and Ireland (see Figure 6b). Decreases in efficiency between 2005 and 2013 were seen in 14 EEA countries, with the largest decreases occurring in France, Spain and Norway.
 Efficiencies of public conventional thermal power plants from non-EU EEA countries could be derived from the energy statistics for Norway and Turkey only.
Indicator specification and metadata
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 inputs to conventional thermal power stations. It is expressed as a percentage.
The output from conventional thermal power stations consists of gross electricity generation, as well as 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.
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 that 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 that generate electricity, either wholly or partly for their own use, as an activity that 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
This 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 autoproducer 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 primary energy consumption (see ENER 036). Higher production efficiency therefore results in substantial reductions in primary energy consumption, hence reducing 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: This 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 must ensure major energy savings for consumers and industry. The European Commission published guidance notes (COM(2013) 762) to help the Member States 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, the 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 the Council, amending directive 2003/87/EC so as to improve and extend the scheme for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading within the community;
- Directive 2009/31/EC of the European Parliament and the Council on the geological storage of carbon dioxide;
- Directive 2009/28/EC of the European Parliament and 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 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 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 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 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 Combined Cycle Gas Turbines as opposed to coal plants.
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 a 20% reduction in primary energy consumption by 2020. Member States are requested to set indicative targets. It is up to each Member State whether it bases its 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 (2015) - Energy, transport and environment indicators
The 2015 edition of this publication presents a compilation of data on energy, transport and the environment. The UN Climate Change Conference taking place in Paris in December 2015, illustrates once again the global political importance of climate change, energy security and sustainable transport, three topics that have become increasingly interconnected. This greater correlation creates the need for a comprehensive approach that includes 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.
Methodology for indicator calculation
- The following Eurostat datasets were used to derive efficiencies from conventional thermal power stations, district 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 EEA had 33 member countries at the time of writing this indicator. These are the 28 European Union Member States plus Turkey, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. Information for Switzerland and Liechtenstein was not available 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, district 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]*100Coding (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 in district heating plants divided by transformation input in district heating plants
Efficiency for autoproducers = transformation output in autoproducers conventional power stations divided by transformation input in autoproducers conventional power stations
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.
No methodology references available.
The efficiency of electricity production is calculated as the ratio of electricity output to total fuel input. However, input to conventional thermal power plants cannot be disaggregated into separate inputs for heat and 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 scrutinised 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 indicator texts.
The collection of input and output data and subsequent derivation of efficiencies for District Heating and Autoproducers power plants revealed efficiencies over 100% for a number of EU28 countries. This incorrect data has been removed from the indicators presented in Figures 5a, 5b, 6a and 6b (see the notes to the Figures). However, this incorrect data is probably also included in the EU28 aggregated input and output data that was 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.
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
Data has 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://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/energy/methodology. See also information related to the Energy Statistics Regulation http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/energy/legislation.
No uncertainty has been specified
Complete energy balances - annual data
provided by Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat)
Energy (Primary topic)
Typology: Efficiency indicator (Type C - Are we improving?)
- ENER 019
Contacts and ownership
EEA Contact InfoAnca-Diana Barbu
EEA Management Plan2015 1.3.2 (note: EEA internal system)
Frequency of updates
- 20 Jan 2015 - Efficiency of conventional thermal electricity and heat production
- 24 Apr 2013 - Efficiency of conventional thermal electricity generation
- 30 Apr 2012 - Efficiency of conventional thermal electricity generation
- 08 Aug 2011 - Efficiency of conventional thermal electricity generation
- 14 Sep 2010 - Efficiency of conventional thermal electricity generation
- 27 Nov 2008 - EN19 Efficiency of conventional thermal electricity and heat production
- 22 May 2007 - EN19 Efficiency of conventional thermal electricity production
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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