09 Feb 2023, 13:10
Carolina Kyllmann

‘Intensive use’ of German coal power plants releases additional 15 mio t of CO2 in 2022 – report

Clean Energy Wire

The ‘intensive use’ of German coal power plants lead to additional emissions of 15.8 million tonnes of CO2 in 2022, according to a report by consultancy Energy Brainpool commissioned by Green Planet Energy. Due to  the energy crisis caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine, Germany temporarily reopened decommissioned and soon-to-be decommissioned coal power plants last year to avert gas shortages, which resulted in more CO2 being released. According to the authors, the emissions are ‘additional’ because they are not accounted for in the European Emissions Trading System (ETS). Germany's total emissions amounted to about 750 million tonnes last year.

The EU ETS has a fixed number of CO2 certificates for power plants and industry, and this allowance decreases annually. In theory, the additional emissions caused by Germany's coal-fired power plants must therefore be saved somewhere else in the EU. However, to prevent the price of certificates from falling too much, a mechanism exists to automatically delete a surplus of certificates in circulation. Because Germany used more allowanced than planned, fewer allowances will be cancelled as the surplus is now smaller. “The calculated additional emissions can be directly traced back to those coal-fired power plants that were shut down and  then brought back into the electricity market,” Energy Brainpool analyst Fabian Huneke said.

“There are still possibilities to compensate for the additional emissions,” policy and communications head at Green Planet Energy, Marcel Keiffenheim, said. “Policymakers must take action now to avert the impending climate damage,” he added, pointing out that Germany could cancel additional emission certificates to compensate for the damage done last year. Converted to current prices according to the EU ETS, the emissions are worth 1.3 billion euros, according to the analysis. Up until the summer of 2022, Russia was Germany’s biggest supplier of fossil fuels.

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