Personal tools

Subscriptions
Sign up to receive our reports (print and/or electronic) and quarterly e-newsletter.
Follow us
Twitter icon Twitter
Facebook icon Facebook
YouTube icon YouTube channel
RSS logo RSS Feeds
More

Write to us Write to us

For the public:


For media and journalists:

Contact EEA staff
Contact the web team
FAQ

Call us Call us

Reception:

Phone: (+45) 33 36 71 00
Fax: (+45) 33 36 71 99


next
previous
items

Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Sound and independent information
on the environment

You are here: Home / Data and maps / Indicators / Efficiency of conventional thermal electricity generation / Efficiency of conventional thermal electricity generation (ENER 019) - Assessment published Apr 2012

Efficiency of conventional thermal electricity generation (ENER 019) - Assessment published Apr 2012

Topics: ,

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:
1990-2009
 
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 between 1990 and 2009 by 5.5 percentage points (from 45.4% in 1990 to 50.9% in 2009). Between 1990 and 2005, the improvement was even greater at 7.0 percentage points (from 45.4% in 1990 to 52.4% in 2005). 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. Between 2005 and 2009, there was a decline in efficiency of electricity and heat production from conventional thermal power plants of 1.5 percentage points (from 52.4% in 2005 to 50.9% in 2009) because of lower heat production.

Efficiency of conventional thermal electricity and heat production

Note: 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 figure on the left is including district heat and the figure on the right is excluding district heat. Left figure: Efficiency of conventional thermal electricity and heat production (including district heat). Right figure: Efficiency of conventional thermal electricity and heat production (excluding district heat)

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, 2009

Note: The EEA efficiencies exclude Iceland (and Croatia) (for conventional) and Iceland and Norway (and Croatia) (for public conventional). Iceland is missing because there is no data in Eurostat this year. Croatia was included last year but has been excluded because it is not part of EEA32. For Norway its efficiency is above 100% in 1990 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 2009, 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 public conventional thermal plants, 1990, 2009

Note: The EEA efficiencies exclude Iceland (and Croatia) (for conventional) and Iceland and Norway (and Croatia) (for public conventional). Iceland is missing because there is no data in Eurostat this year. Croatia was included last year but has been excluded because it is not part of EEA32. For Norway its efficiency is above 100% in 1990 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 2009, 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, 2009

Note: Due to inconsistencies in the Eurostat data set Bulgaria, Greece, Lithunia, and Slovenia 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. Croatia is excluded because it is not part of EEA32.

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 iof conventional thermal powerstations and district heating plants in the EU-27 improved over the period 1990 and 2009 by 5.5 percentage points to reach 50.9% in 2009 (49.5 % excluding district heating). The main increase was seen between 1990 and 2005 with an increase of 7.0 percentage points (from 45.4% in 1990 to 52.4% in 2005). Between 2005 and 2009, there was a decline in efficiency of electricity and heat production from conventional thermal power plants and district heating plants of 1.5 percentage points (from 52.4% in 2005 to 50.9% in 2009) because of lower heat production (Figure 1a and 1b). In Figure 1a and 1b, the drop in 2007 is due to increased electrical energy output from conventional thermal power stations in UK, Germany and Turkey.
  • For public thermal power plants the average efficiency increased in most EU-27 countries over the period 1990-2009, resulting in a net efficiency of 49.9% in 2009 (48.2% excluding district heating). Between 1990 and 2005, the average energy efficiency of public thermal power plants increased by 5.8 percentage points (from 44.6% in 1990 to 50.4% in 2005). Between 2005 and 2009, the average energy efficiency of public thermal power plants decreased by 0.6 percentage points (from 50.4% in 2005 to 49.9% in 2009).For autoproducers the average efficiency also increased in most EU-27 countries over the period 1990-2009, resulting in a net efficiency of 59.2 % by 2009. Between 1990 and 2005 the average energy efficiency of autoproducers increased by 16.3 percentage points (from 50.6% in 1990 to 66.9% in 2005).The higher efficiency for autoproducers is largely explained by the fact that the installations of autoproducers are often designed to be more suitable for the heat and electricity demand on a location. (See Figure 2b and Figure 2c). There was a fall in efficiency between 2005 and 2009 by 7.7 percentage points (from 66.9% in 2005 to 59.2% in 2009).
  • Although overall improvements in electricity and heat generation efficiency were seen over the period 1990 to 2009, 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 plants (see ENER 27).
  • 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 1.2 % per year since 1990 (see ENER 18), especially considering that over half of this electricity (51.3 % in 2009) is produced from coal, gas and oil (see ENER 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 20). Decentralised CHP could bring about larger benefits as a recent study carried out in the UK shows (ICE 2009). Acording to this study, decentralised, 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, 2009).

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 particularly in the new Member States. See Figure 2a (see also ENER 11). Between 1990 and 2009, the greatest efficiency improvements in both electricity and electricity and heat production (including district heating) for conventional thermal powerstations and district heating plants, occurred in Luxembourg with a difference of 30.3% (construction of a new CCGT), France (16.4%) and the Netherlands (15.1%). Decreases in the efficiency of electricity and heat production were seen in Switzerland, Estonia, Bulgaria and Norway between 1990 and 2009, however, there are sizeable fluctuations which indicate these data may be less reliable (See Figure 1 and 2a).
  • Among the EEA, non-EU countries, Turkey registered the highest efficiency gain for conventional thermal powerstations and district heating plants. For Turkey the efficiency increased in 2009 by 11.0% 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

2011 2.8.1 (note: EEA internal system)

Dates

Document Actions
Filed under: , ,

Comments

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