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You are here: Home / Data and maps / Indicators / Efficiency of conventional thermal electricity generation

Efficiency of conventional thermal electricity generation

Topics: ,
Contents
 

Justification for indicator selection

The majority of thermal generation is produced using fossil fuels but can also include biomass, wastes and 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, additional to the ones previously mentioned, 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 indicator shows the efficiency of electricity and heat production from conventional thermal plants. A distinction is made between public (i.e. main activity producers), thermal plants and autoproducers. 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 11). 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 has to be seen in the context of the type of fuel (see ENER 27) and the extent to which abatement technologies are used (see ENER 06).

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

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

    • 443/2009
      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.
    • 2008/101/EC
      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
    • 2008/952/EC
      Detailed guidelines for the implementation and application of Annex II to Directive 2004/8/EC
    • 2008/c 82/01
      Community guidelines on state aid for environmental protection (2008/c 82/01)
    • 2009/28/EC
      Directive 2009/28/ec of the European parliament and of the Council on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources
    • 2009/29/ec
      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.
    • 2009/31/EC
      Directive 2009/31/ec of the European parliament and of the Council on the geological storage of carbon dioxide.
    • 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
    • Ecofys (2007): International comparison of fossil power efficiency,
      With energy and climate markets and technologies continuously changing, profound knowledge is key to all decision making. Ecofys supports authorities and corporate organisations alike in meeting the energy and climate challenge of the 21 st century. The strategic studies, reports or market assessments we conduct provide valuable and reliable information on the latest developments and anticipated trends. Ecofys, august 2007
    • IEA (2005) - Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions The Potential of Coal, International Energy Agency
      The Directorate of Sustainable Energy Policy and Technology (SPT) is responsible for sustainable (demand-side) energy policy and energy technology policy. The Director serves as Chief IEA Technology Co-ordinator responsible for ensuring linkages between the Committee on Energy Research and Technology (CERT) , the IEA Implementing Agreements and the Secretariat in terms of technology issues.
    • OECD (2005) - International Energy Technology Collaboration and Climate Change Mitigation
      Case Study 4: Clean Coal Technologies

    Key policy question

    Is the European energy production system becoming more efficient?

    Specific policy question

    What are the main technological developments underlying the observed trends in efficiency of the European energy production system?

    Specific policy question

    What are the key differences among European countries as well as between European countries and other countries and regions in the world?

    Methodology

    Methodology for indicator calculation

    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:

    •  Electricity output from conventional thermal power stations 101101 (6000 electrical energy) + Heat output from conventional thermal power stations 101101 (5200 derived heat)
    • Electricity output from public thermal power stations 101121 (6000 electrical energy) + Heat output from public thermal power stations 101121 (5200 derived heat)
    • Electricity output from autoproducer thermal power station 101122 (6000 electrical energy) + Heat output from autoproducer thermal power station 101122 (5200 derived heat)

    Denominator:

    • Input to conventional thermal power stations 101001 (0000 all products)
    • Input to public thermal power stations 101021 (0000 all products)
    • Input to autoproducer thermal power stations 101022 (0000 all products)


    Data collected annually.

    Eurostat metadata for energy statistics http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/statistics/metadata

    Geographical coverage:
    The Agency had 32 member countries at the time of writing of this fact sheet. These are the 27 European Union Member States and Turkey, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.
    Total: 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

    Public: Norway is excluded as the data was considered unreliable, giving efficiencies ≥ 100%. Autoprocucers: Bulgaria, Greece, Lithunia, and Slovenia are excluded as they were considered unreliable, giving efficiencies ≥ 100%. No autoproducers data was available for Cyprus, Iceland and Malta

    Temporal coverage: 1990-2009.

      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

      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.
      There are also slight differences in the calculation of efficiencies between the historical and projected data. In contrast to the Eurostat data, the projections take into account non -marketed steam, i.e. steam generated - either in boilers or in CHP plants - and used on site by industrial consumers. The calculation of projected efficiencies therefore takes into account both the non-marketed steam generated in CHP units as well as the corresponding fuel input whereas the calculation of historical efficiencies excludes both these components.

       

      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

      Cinzia Pastorello

      Ownership

      European Environment Agency (EEA)

      Identification

      Indicator code
      ENER 019
      Specification
      Version id: 1
      Primary theme: Energy Energy

      Permalinks

      Permalink to this version
      7aaa998db5ef797aa63beb8f964ebb11
      Permalink to latest version
      3EOJRMYM3S

      Classification

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

      Related content

      Data references used

      Data used

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      Geographical coverage

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