Czechia can phase out coal from electricity and heating by 2030
There is a feasible route to phase-out coal from electricity and heating in Czechia by 2030.
With ambitious but credible action, a substantial coal to clean transition can be achieved in a decade. The lowest cost route is achieved by a strong focus on wind and solar.
A sizable but realistic expansion of renewable electricity capacity is required.
Czechia’s power system can incorporate much higher renewable capacity than current ambitions. This pathway adds 3.7GW onshore wind and 7.9GW solar, reaching 4GW and 10GW respectively by 2030, without curtailment of generation. To reach these levels, Czechia must build quickly, but other EU countries with similar potential (or less) are already deploying wind and solar at the rates required.
There is a small need for new dispatchable capacity.
This pathway adds between 2.5-3.4GW new gas generation while closing 9.7GW coal by 2030. The lower end of the range is reached by utilising grid-scale battery storage. Fast renewables growth is key to limiting the need for new gas assets – which risk becoming stranded as Europe moves to net zero.
At least two thirds of heat from coal CHP plants could be replaced by large heat pumps and waste heat recovery.
These are the most economic replacements for coal heat, and sufficient potential exists in Czechia. Immediate action is needed to diversify and decarbonise heat sources in district heating, as well as reducing demand through efficiency measures.
A 2030 coal phase-out would allow Czechia to achieve new EU climate targets.
Modelled emissions from power generation decrease by 85% between 2020 and 2030. We find a 2030 coal phase-out can save an additional 32MtCO2 on top of plans outlined in the NECP, all else being equal. These additional savings would allow Czechia to reduce total GHG emissions by more than 60% from 1990 levels, meeting 2030 targets proposed by the EU Green Deal.
Energy & Climate Data Analyst, EmberWith ambitious but realistic action, Czechia can phase out coal from electricity and heating by 2030. The least-cost energy pathway modelled by Ember sees Czechia deploying new wind and solar at a speed and scale already achieved by other EU countries, as well as developing a more modern and efficient heating system. A 2030 coal phase-out would invest in Czechia’s future economy and enhance its international reputation as it delivers emissions cuts in alignment with the EU Green Deal and Paris Agreement.
Key Results - Electricity
Wind and solar are deployed as the cheapest option, limited only by constraints imposed on potential. We limit deployment to 10GW solar and 4GW onshore wind (see methodology). The model optimisation deploys all of this available capacity, which contributes to production without significant curtailment. The resulting share of renewables in gross final consumption of electricity in 2030 is 38%, compared to 17% forecast in the NECP. The fossil-free share is 79%.
Grid-scale battery storage reduces the need for new dispatchable thermal capacity. We assess the impact of adding 2GW battery storage (equivalent to 20% of installed solar capacity) to the system in 2030, finding it reduces the deployment of flexible gas capacity by 1GW. Without battery storage, 3.4GW flexible gas is deployed. With battery storage, 2.5GW is deployed. Both scenarios include 760MWe of gas CHP to partially replace coal CHP heat.
Czechia becomes a small net importer of electricity in 2030. Net imports total 550GWh, or less than 1% of consumption. Czechia’s exports are driven by solar and wind generation, highlighting their important role in domestic energy security.
There is sufficient dispatchable capacity in 2030 to meet peak demand. Even in the absence of any solar or wind generation, Czechia could still generate enough power to cover demand in any hour across all modelled years and weather conditions. After phasing out coal and adding 3.4GW flexible gas, the system has 13.3GW dispatchable capacity, whereas modelled peak demand reaches 12.6GW.
A 2030 coal phase-out would allow Czechia to reduce GHG emissions more than 60% compared to 1990. Modelled CO2 emissions from power generation decrease by 85% between 2020 and 2030. Taking into account electricity and heat production, we estimate a 2030 coal phase-out can deliver approximately 32MtCO2 additional savings compared to estimates based on the NECP. This would reduce overall GHG emissions by more than 60% compared to 1990, exceeding the proposed 2030 EU climate target of ‘at least 55%’.
An estimated €11bn of capital investment in the power sector is required to achieve this pathway. This amounts to just 0.45% of Czech GDP per year for the next ten years. These costs should be considered against the avoided carbon and health costs of coal. These investments would deliver an estimated 45,000 FTE (Full Time Employment), of which 95% are generated by wind and solar. Evidence that a coal phase-out focussed on renewables will deliver most for the wider economy.
Key Results - Heat
Coal CHP heat production can be replaced by a combination of options by 2030. Our modelling approach replaces coal CHP heat with: further efficiency gains in buildings (11%), waste heat recovery (24%), industrial heat pumps (33%), and gas CHP + boilers (32%).
Significant potential for waste heat recovery exists in Czechia. This proven, low-cost option requires urgent consideration and a route to market. Previous estimates of available excess high-temperature heat (>100C) range from 22PJ (today) to 35PJ (2050). We model a 11PJ contribution in 2030.
Large heat pumps are a highly efficient replacement for coal CHP heat production. This technology is deployed by the model in favour of gas or biomass CHP units on a cost basis. The model deploys 500MWth large heat pumps by 2030, and would expand further were it not for constraints imposed (see methodology). Despite replacing a third of coal CHP heat, they add only 1.2TWh (1.7%) to annual electricity consumption, and a maximum of 0.15GW to electricity demand. Furthermore, our modelling does not account for the important role heat pumps can play as a source of demand-side flexibility. While this model shows they are feasible on an energy and cost basis, we do not consider local factors such as grid constraints and availability of appropriate ambient heat sources. These should be investigated urgently.
An energy pathway towards 2030 coal phase-out
Phasing out coal in Czechia by 2030 will take ambitious action, but it is possible to complete in the next decade.
The findings of our power system modelling shows how coal can be replaced in power and large-scale heat generation, demonstrating that 2030 coal phase out should be seriously considered by the Czech coal commission.
The lowest cost pathway will mean a strong focus on wind and solar as coal is phased out, with our modelling showing that Czechia could shift towards renewables without curtailing generation by adding 3.7GW onshore wind and 7.9GW solar in the next ten years. This would be supported by a small amount of new dispatchable capacity through small amount of gas generation, made even smaller if grid-scale battery storage is deployed. While wind and solar are economically competitive, policy support is critical to accelerate the shift at the speed needed.
Without an ambitious commitment to renewable sources, Czechia risks replacing on generation of unsustainable assets with another. If coal generation is replaced primarily with fossil gas, not only would this deviate from the lowest cost route, but these new assets would be at significant risk of becoming stranded. As well as coming with higher costs and financial risk, a coal phase-out focused on gas would expose Czech energy security to volatile international markets, due to a lack of domestic gas supplies.
The estimated investments required to deliver a 2030 coal phase-out are significant, but amount to a relatively small fraction of GDP, approximately 0.5% per year. That scale of investment in the power sector would deliver a significant jobs boost of 45,00 direct FTE, far outnumbering the reported 13,700 employed in coal mining in 2018. Large scale investment in wind and solar are the key to delivering that benefit.
On an energy basis, heat generation from large coal plants can be replaced largely with clean alternatives by 2030. These solutions should be urgently explored, with highly efficient heat pumps an especially promising technology.
Action over the next decade will be pivotal for putting Europe on track to achieve net-zero by 2050. This is reflected in moves to strengthen the EU’s emissions target for 2030 from 40% to ‘at least 55%’ reductions. A 2030 coal phase-out would deliver sufficient emissions reductions for Czechia to meet or exceed that 55% target. A political commitment to a 2030 coal phase-out date would show strong intent to embrace this opportunity. It would also place Czechia in a strong position to leverage EU recovery funds to deliver a more sustainable, efficient, and affordable energy system.
This analysis uses an hourly power system model with least-cost optimisation to simulate electricity and coal CHP heat production in the years 2020, 2025, and 2030. Hourly electricity demand was estimated using real climatic data from three representative years.
In the model, Czechia is integrated into the wider European power network, the evolution is which follows ENTSO-E’s Ten Year Network Development Plan (TYNDP).
In our modelled pathway, the NECP is taken as a baseline for electricity and heat demand, as well as some non-coal production capacity.
The following modifications are made:
Power capacity: Czech coal capacity (both electricity-only and CHP) was required to fall by 40% by 2025 and 100% by 2030. Technologies with limited scope for development before 2030 were set according to the NECP, i.e., no new nuclear, and only small changes in hydropower (and pumped storage), bioenergy, waste incineration, and interconnection. This meant coal was largely replaced by an optimised combination of solar, wind, and flexible gas generation. We produced an additional scenario to explore the impacts of adding battery storage (equivalent to 20% of solar capacity).
RES limits: We impose upper limits on wind and solar deployment, in an attempt to remain within economic and territorial constraints. Broadly, we assume maximum deployment rates in agreement with expert estimates over the 2020-25 period, but allow acceleration in the second half of the decade. Onshore wind capacity was limited to 1GW by 2025 and 4GW by 2030. The necessary additions over the next 5 years (760MW) are a significant scale-up for Czechia, but other EU countries with similar resource potential are achieving more. According to Eurostat, between 2013-2018 Austria added 1458MW, Belgium 1003MW, and Denmark 872MW. Solar capacity was limited to 4.8GW by 2025 and 10GW by 2030. Between 2009-2011 Czechia added 1.5GW, exceeding the rate required between 2020-2030 to reach the upper limits set.
Heat demand: We use national statistics and projections in the Czech NECP to estimate the shortfall in heat supply as a consequence of phasing-out coal CHP plants, in both the district heating system and dedicated units for own-consumption. In addition to this, we incorporated estimates of additional savings that could be achieved by more ambitious building renovation. These estimates combine to reduce the heat demand in scope for the model by approximately one third, from 60PJ to 40PJ between 2020 and 2030. Current non-coal heat production was assumed to evolve according to the NECP, and was not modelled.
Heat production: Before optimising the replacement of coal CHP heat, we gathered estimates for the potential of waste heat recovery. Subsequently we subtracted 11PJ of heat demand, assuming a baseload production profile. The remaining supply is optimised by the model, which selects between large heat pumps, gas/biomass CHP, and gas/biomass heat-only boilers. Due to uncertainties about the end-user requirements of own-consumers, we required the model to source at least 15PJ from thermal combustion.