Gas overtakes lignite as Europe’s largest source of power emissions

(EurActiv, 16 Apr 2021) Gas power plants overtook lignite in 2020 to become the EU’s single largest source of power sector emissions, according to fresh analysis from energy think tank Ember.

The analysis, published on Friday (16 April), is based on data reported by energy companies covered by the EU’s emissions trading scheme, which puts a price on each tonne of CO2 emitted by more than 10,000 large industrial installations.

It showed a continued downward trend in emissions from lignite and hard coal power plants, which dropped respectively by 23% and 27% last year compared to 2019.

“The fall in lignite emissions in 2020 meant that – for the first time – gas power plants overtook lignite power plants to become the single largest contributor to power sector emissions in the EU ETS,” Ember said.

Europe’s gas plants released 236 million tonnes of CO2 in 2020, more than lignite (205MtCO2) and hard coal (154MtCO2), according to data compiled by Ember. In 2020, gas power plants represented 33% of power sector emissions in the EU ETS, up from just 16% in 2013.

Lignite is the highest carbon-emitting source of power generation, but historically also one of the cheapest. However, a robust carbon price and low gas prices in 2020 meant gas generation was the cheapest form of fossil generation last year, even undercutting lignite.

“Gas is the new coal,” said one Brussels energy lobbyist who spoke to EURACTIV on condition of anonymity.

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EurActiv, 16 Apr 2021: Gas overtakes lignite as Europe’s largest source of power emissions