European Commission data published today shows that RWE's Weisweiler lignite power station has replaced the UK's Drax power station as Europe's 5th largest CO2 emitter in 2014. This means for the first time since the EU ETS was set up in 2005, 4 out of 5 of the largest CO2 emitters are German lignite power stations (see table).

Three of the lignite power stations are owned by RWE (Neurath, Niederaussem and Weisweiler) and one is owned by Vattenfall (Jaenschwalde). Poland's PGE owns Europe's top CO2 emitter, Bełchatów. Drax fell out of the top 5 as it cut reported CO2 emissions by 18% in 2014 as it switched to burning biomass. German lignite power stations are also in 8th and 10th place, both advancing a place on last year.

The list is generally quite static: the top 6 emitters in 2014 are the same top 6 emitters in 2005, when the EU ETS was set up 10 years ago. Their emissions are 5% above 2005 levels.

image 1

Yesterday, German Environment Minister Barbara Hendriks reported total lignite emissions fell by 2.2%. This means lignite generation is still running nearly 24/7 in Germany, despite falling electricity consumption and increasing renewables, which significantly reduced the need for fossil generation, and saw coal emissions fall by 8.2% and gas emissions fall by 12.9%.

Sandbag has calculated from today's data that 2014 German lignite emission are still 4% higher than in 2010, in that time total EU power emissions have fallen by 13%. This means that German lignite emissions are forming an increasing proportion of EU power sector emissions – up from 11% in 2010, to 13% in 2014 (see graph).

Dave Jones, Sandbag analyst comments: "The majority of German lignite is two-thirds more carbon-intensive than even efficient hard coal, and this is undermining power sector decarbonisation not just within Germany, but even at a European level. The Energiewende can only be a true international success story if lignite emissions are substantially reduced."


European Commission data for 2014 emissions was published today at 1200CEST at this link.

The data covers installation-level data for all installations in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.

Sandbag will release further details today, including an analysis pack showing key trends and stories of the emissions data on our website.