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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 Aug 2011

Efficiency of conventional thermal electricity generation (ENER 019) - Assessment published Aug 2011

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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:
1990-2008
 
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 improved steadily from 43.5% in 1990 to 50.1% in 2005, but decreased to 49.8% in 2008 because of lower heat production. The improvement until 2005 was due to the closure of old inefficient plants, improvements in existing technologies, often combined with a switch from coal power plants to more efficient combined cycle gas-turbines. The environmental benefits resulting from the increase in efficiency of the conventional thermal electricity and heat production (including biomass were offset by the rapid growth in fossil-fuel based (oil, gas, coal & lignite) electricity production (38 % in the period 1990-2008, see ENER009).

Efficiency (electricity and heat) from public conventional thermal plants, 1990, 2008

Note: For public thermal power plants the average efficiency increased in most countries over the period 1990-2008, resulting in a net efficiency of 49.8% in 2008 (48.2% excluding district heating). The EEA efficiencies exclude Norway (for conventional), and Norway and Switzerland (for public conventional) - their efficiencies are above 100% in either 1990 or 2008 because the electricity consumed for heating is not considered as an input although the heating from electric boilers is considered in total output. Swedish conventional and public conventional efficiencies are above 100% in some years (when including district heating), but not in 1990 or in 2008, so Sweden is included in the charts.

Data source:

Eurostat 2010 (historical data), http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/energy/data/database

Output from public thermal power stations - Supply, transformation, consumption:

  • Electricity
  • Heat
  • All products

 

Downloads and more info

Efficiency (electricity and heat) from autoproducers conventional thermal plants, 1990, 2008

Note: For public thermal power plants the average efficiency increased in most countries over the period 1990-2008, resulting in a net efficiency of 49.8% in 2008 (48.2% excluding district heating). Due to inconsistencies in the Eurostat data set Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, Luxembourg and Lithuania 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:

Eurostat 2010 (historical data), http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/energy/data/database

Output from public thermal power stations - Supply, transformation, consumption:

  • Electricity
  • Heat
  • All products

 

Downloads and more info

Efficiency of conventional thermal electricity and heat production

Note: The average energy efficiency of conventional thermal electricity and heat production in the EU-27 improved over the period 1990-2008 by 6.3% to reach 49.8 %in 2008 (48.5 % excluding district heating). 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:

Eurostat 2010 (historical data), http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/energy/data/database

Output from public thermal power stations - Supply, transformation, consumption:

  • Electricity
  • Heat
  • All products

Downloads and more info

Efficiency (electricity and heat) production from conventional thermal plants, 1990, 2008

Note: The average energy efficiency of conventional thermal electricity and heat production in the EU-27 improved over the period 1990-2008 by 6.3% to reach 49.8 %in 2008 (48.5 % excluding district heating). The EEA efficiencies exclude Norway (for conventional), and Norway and Switzerland (for public conventional) - their efficiencies are above 100% in either 1990 or 2008 because the electricity consumed for heating is not considered as an input although the heating from electric boilers is considered in total output. Swedish conventional and public conventional efficiencies are above 100% in some years (when including district heating), but not in 1990 or in 2008, so Sweden is included in the charts.

Data source:

Eurostat 2010 (historical data), http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/energy/data/database

Output from public thermal power stations - Supply, transformation, consumption:

  • Electricity
  • Heat
  • All products

 

 

 

Downloads and more info

Key assessment

  • The average energy efficiency of conventional thermal electricity and heat production in the EU-27 improved over the period 1990-2008 by 6.3% to reach 49.8 %in 2008 (48.5 % excluding district heating). The greatest efficiency improvements in both electricity and electricity and heat production occurred in Luxembourg (construction of a new CCGT) and in Romania (more efficient plants). Significant decreases in the efficiency of electricity and heat production were seen in France, Estonia, Poland, Bulgaria and Iceland between 1990 and 2008. A closer examination of the more recent trend for France shows a fluctuating but seemingly stable efficiency, with the decrease in overall efficiency primarily due to a higher share of inefficient coal power in 2008. The efficiency of the new, electricity -only capacity is higher than older electricity generation but remains lower when constrasted to the combined production of both heat and electricity (when there is an uptake of the produced heat). Same is valid for heat production. Estonia, Poland, Bulgaria and Iceland show a decline of efficiency in the last few years, however, there are sizeable fluctations in the data indicating these may be less reliable. (See Figure 1 and Figure 2).
  • For public thermal power plants the average efficiency increased in most countries over the period 1990-2008, resulting in a net efficiency of 49.8% in 2008 (48.2% excluding district heating). For autoproducers the average efficiency also increased in most countries over the period 1990-2008, resulting in a net efficiency of 49.9 % by 2008. The higher efficiency for autoproducers is largely explained by the fact that the installations of autoproducers are often designed or dimensioned more suitable for the heat and electricity demand on a location. (See Figure 3 and Figure 4).
  • Although overall improvements in electricity and heat generation efficiency were seen over the period 1990 to 2008, a marginal stagnation in the late 1990s and a decline in efficiency in the last three years was observed. This was due primarily to an increased utilisation of existing lower efficiency coal plant (see ENER 27). Between 2007 and 2008, the overall efficiency decreased again with 0.2 percentage points due to the higher share of electricity production by inefficient coal power in some countries.
  • The positive impacts on the environment (particularly decreased emissions) from the efficiency improvement in the electricity production, may be offset by the fast increase in electricity consumption, which is growing at an average rate of 1.6 % per year since 1990 (see ENER018), especially considering that over half of this electricity (53 % in 2008) is produced from coal, gas and oil (see ENER0 27)[1].


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

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

Specific assessment

  • The growth in the use of combined cycle gas turbine plants (CCGT) has been an important factor in improving efficiency in the EU-15 Member States. CCGT plants can achieve conversion efficiencies in the order of 60%, with the prospect of even higher efficiencies in future power plants. However, continued improvements have also been made in conventional coal generation with plants capable of efficiencies in the range 40-45% (for instance in Denmark), and further advances that may allow this to exceed 50% (IEA, 2005).
  • CHP provides a large potential for increasing efficiency of electricity production and reduction of CO2 -emissions (see ENER 020). Descentralised CHP could bring about larger benefits as a recent study carried out in the UK shows (ICE,2009). Acording to this study, descentralised, gas-fired CHP plants could deliver energy with a carbon content of about 300gCO2/kWh compared with 501gCO2/kWh which was the average in the UK (given its specifc fuel mix) in 2007. These benefits are additional to further savings of about 5gCO2/kWh compared to a modern combined cycle gas turbine.
  • 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 some 5000 district heating systems supplying some 9% of the total EU-27 heat demand, with Nordic countries having the highest penetration rate of district heating but with Poland and Germany having the largest amount of district heating delivery. 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 is expected to reach a 25% district cooling market share for commercial and institutional buildings in two to three years time.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).

    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?

    Specific assessment

    • At the beginning of the 1990s, the energy sector particularly in the new EU Member States was characterised by low generation efficiencies due to obsolete plant technology. However, in the second half of the 1990s investments were made to improve the performance of existing plants which led to efficiency improvements which explain efficiency gains in 2008 compared to 1990 higher than the European average in countries like Romania (the efficiency increased with 32.0%), Lithuania (the efficiency increased with 17.8%) and Slovakia (the efficiency increased with 13.2%) but also in the EU-15 countries such as Luxembourg (the efficiency increased with 34.1%), Netherlands (the efficiency increased with 16.0%), and Belgium (the efficiency increased with 12.6%). See Figure 2 (see also ENER 011).
    • Among the EEA, non-EU countries, Turkey registered the highest efficiency gain. For Turkey the efficiency increased in 2008 with 12.7% compared to 1990.
    • Efficiencies of fossil-fired electricity and heat production in different countries have been compared in a recent study (Ecofys, 2007). It appears that efficiencies in European countries (France, UK, Ireland, Nordic countries and Germany) are higher than the worldwide average. When the worldwide average is set at 100%, efficiencies in India and China are typically 15–19% lower than those in the investigated European countries. The efficiencies in the USA are 1% below the average level.

Data sources

More information about this indicator

See this indicator specification for more details.

Contacts and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Cinzia Pastorello

Ownership

EEA Management Plan

2010 2.8.1 (note: EEA internal system)

Dates

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