Emission intensity of public conventional thermal power electricity and heat production
Justification for indicator selection
Carbon dioxide is the most abundantly produced greenhouse gas. Increased greenhouse gas emissions lead to higher concentrations in the atmosphere, which contributes to climatic change, including increased temperatures and more variable and erratic weather patterns. The potential consequences of climate change include sea-level rise and increased flooding or drought. Climate change will have adverse impacts on biodiversity with species loss or migration and may also lead to new patterns of disease e.g. return of malaria to southern and northern Europe. Changes in the availability of water resources could have implications for public supply and other uses within the economy e.g. agricultural supply and tourism development.
Emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are the main cause of acid deposition leading to changes in soil and water quality and damage to forests, crops and other vegetation, and to adverse effects on aquatic ecosystems in rivers and lakes. Acidification also damages buildings and cultural monuments and potentially has links to human respiratory diseases. Other health impacts can arise if acidification affects groundwater used for public water supply.
Electricity and heat production from public thermal power plants is a significant source of both air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing the emissions per unit of electricity and heat produced (emissions intensity) of these plants can play an important role in helping to reduce their environmental impacts.
- No rationale references available
Historical emissions of CO2, NOx and SO2 from the reporting format category 1A1a - Public electricity and heat production. Output from public thermal power stations covers gross electricity generation and any heat also produced by public thermal power stations. Public thermal power stations generate electricity and/or heat for sale to third parties as their primary activity. They may be privately or publicly owned. 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. Emissions intensity is calculated by dividing the emissions of each pollutant from public electricity and heat production (sector 1A1a) by the output from public thermal power stations.
CO2 intensity: emissions per toe
Policy context and targets
Although there are no specific EU targets for reducing the emissions intensity of public thermal power production, such reductions will play an important role in helping the EU to meet its commitments under the Kyoto protocol of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the National Emissions Ceiling Directive. The latter requires the introduction of national emission ceilings (upper limits) for emissions of SO2 and NOx (as well as NH3 and NMVOCs) in each Member State, as well as setting interim environmental objectives for reducing the exposure of ecosystems and human populations to damaging levels of the acid pollutants. Targets for the new Member States are temporary and are without prejudice to the on-going review of the NEC Directive which should result in a proposal for a revised Directive in 2013. Targets for Bulgaria and Romania are provisional and not binding. Hence, the existing EU25 NECD Target has been used in the following analysis.
In terms of the energy sector, the most relevant NEC Directive targets for the EU-25 (excluding Bulgaria and Romania) are for SO2 andNOx emissions reductions of 74% and 53% respectively by 2010 from 1990 levels. Bulgaria and Romania have provisional targets for SO2 and NOx emissions reductions.
A number of EU policies have an impact on the emissions intensity of public thermal power plants, including the Large Combustion Plant (LCP) Directive (2001/80/EC) which aims to control emissions of SO2, NOx and particulate matter from large (>50MW) combustion plants and hence favours the use of higher efficiency CCGT as opposed to coal plants; and plants covered under the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directive (96/61/EC) which are required to meet a set of emissions abatement and energy efficiency provisions through the use of best available technology not entailing excessive cost (BATNEEC). New installations, and existing installations which are subject to "substantial changes", have been required to meet the requirements of the IPPC Directive since 30 October 1999. Other existing installations must be brought into compliance by 30 October 2007. The LCP Directive requires significant emission reductions from "existing plants" (licensed before 1 July 1987) to be achieved by 1 January 2008.
The Directive establishing a scheme for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading within the Community (2003/87/EC) is primarily intended to help contribute to the European Union fulfilling its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol and will affect the CO2 intensity. Under the Directive, each Member State drew up National Allocation Plans for 2005-2007 and again for 2008-2012 that set caps on CO2 emissions from all thermal electricity generating plants greater than 20 MW. A shift to less carbon intensive fuels for electricity generation, such as gas, and improvements in efficiency are important options to help generators meet their requirements under the Directive, and these will also have the effect of helping to reduce the emissions intensity of SO2 and NOx.
No targets have been specified
Related policy documents
Council Directive 96/61/EC (IPPC)
Council Directive 96/61/EC of 24 September 1996 concerning Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC). Official Journal L 257.
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
The Directive establish a scheme for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading within the Community and amends Council Directive 96/61/EC
Methodology for indicator calculation
CO2 emissions data are annual official data submission to UNFCCC and EU Monitoring mechanism. Combination of emission estimates based on volume of activities and emission factors. Recommended methodologies for emission data collection are compiled in the IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories (IPCC, 2006), supplemented by the Good Practice Guidance and Uncertainty Management in National Greenhouse Gas Inventories (IPCC, 2000) and UNFCCC Guidelines (UNFCCC, 2000). SO2 and NOx emissions data are annual country data submissions to UNECE/CLRTAP/EMEP. Combination of emission measurements and emission estimates based on volume of activities and emission factors. Recommended methodologies for emission data collection are compiled in the Joint EMEP/CORINAIR Atmospheric Emission Inventory Guidebook 3rd edition EEA Copenhagen EEA (2009).
Emission intensities are calculated as the ratio of CO2, NOx and SO2 emissions of public conventional thermal power production divided by the electricity and heat output from public conventional thermal power production. Average annual rate of growth calculated using: [(last year / base year) ^ (1 / number of years) –1]*100.
Methodology for gap filling
ETC-ACC gap-filling methodology. Where countries have not reported data for one, or several years, data for emissions from public conventional thermal power production has been calculated as a proportion of the emissions from all energy industries (which includes emissions from refineries etc) by applying a scaling factor. This scaling factor has been calculated as the ratio of emissions from public conventional thermal power production to emissions from all energy industries for a year in which both data sets exist (usually 2005). It is recognised that the use of gap-filling can potentially lead to inaccurate trends, but it is considered unavoidable if a comprehensive and comparable set of emissions data for European countries is required for policy analysis purposes.
No methodology references available.
EEA data references
- EEA aggregated and gap filled air emission data provided by European Environment Agency (EEA)
- National emissions reported to the UNFCCC and to the EU Greenhouse Gas Monitoring Mechanism provided by Directorate-General for Environment (DG ENV) , United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
External data references
Data sources in latest figures
The emissions intensity of power production is calculated as the ratio of emissions to total electricity and heat output. For electricity data (unlike that for overall energy consumption) 1990 refers to the West part of Germany only. The IPCC (IPCC, 2000) suggests that the uncertainty in the total GWP-weighted emission estimates, for most European countries, is likely to be less than ± 20 %. The IPCC believes that the uncertainty in CO2 emission estimates from fuel use in Europe is likely to be less than ± 5 %. Total GHG emission trends are likely to be more accurate than the absolute emission estimates for individual years. The IPCC suggests that the uncertainty in total GHG emission trends is ± 4 % to 5 %. Uncertainty estimates for the EU-15 were calculated by the EEA (2006). The results suggest that uncertainties at EU-15 level are between ± 4 % and 11 % for total EU-15 greenhouse gas emissions. For energy related greenhouse gas emissions the results suggest uncertainties between ± 2 % (stationary combustion) and ± 11 % (fugitive emissions). For public electricity and heat production specifically, which is the focus of the indicator, the CO2 uncertainty is estimated to be ± 0.2 %. For the new Member States and some other EEA countries, uncertainties are assumed to be higher than for the EU-15 Member States because of data gaps.
The uncertainties of sulphur dioxide emission estimates in Europe are relatively low, as the sulphur emitted comes from the fuel burnt and therefore can be accurately estimated. However, because of the need for interpolation to account for missing data the complete dataset used here will have higher uncertainty.
EMEP has compared modelled (which include emission data as one of the model parameters) and measured concentrations throughout Europe (EMEP 2005). From these studies the uncertainties associated with the modelled annual averages for a specific point in time have been estimated in the order of ± 30 %. This is consistent with an inventory uncertainty of ±10 % (with additional uncertainties arising from the other model parameters, modelling methodologies, and the air quality measurement data etc). In contrast, NOx emission estimates in Europe are thought to have higher uncertainty, as the NOx emitted comes both from the fuel burnt and the combustion air and so cannot be estimated accurately from fuel nitrogen alone. EMEP has compared, modelled and measured concentrations throughout Europe (EMEP 2005). From these studies differences for individual monitoring stations of more than a factor of two have been found. This is consistent with an inventory of national annual emissions having an uncertainty of ±30% or greater (there are also uncertainties in the air quality measurements and especially the modelling). For all emissions the trend is likely to be much more accurate than individual absolute annual values - the annual values are not independent of each other. However not all countries apply changes to methodologies back to 1990.
Data sets uncertainty
No uncertainty has been specified
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
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.
PDF generated on 04 Jul 2015, 09:13 AM