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Europe's emergency coal standby plans 'have limited climate impact'


Plants would add 1.3% to EU emissions

65% load factor equates to 60 TWh

European spot coal hits new price record

  • Author
  • Henry Edwardes-Evans
  • Editor
  • Ankit Ajmera
  • Commodity
  • Coal Electric Power Energy Transition Natural Gas

European plans to place coal plants on temporary standby would only add 1.3% to EU emissions annually even if run hard, according to energy think tank Ember.

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Germany, Austria, France, and the Netherlands have announced plans to enable increased coal power generation in the event that Russian gas supplies are halted.

"Even in the worst-case scenario where these reserve coal plants run throughout 2023 on a load factor of 65%, they would only generate 60 TWh of coal-fired electricity, which is enough to power Europe for about one week," Ember said July 13.

From a climate perspective, the net additional CO2 emissions in 2023 would be 30 million mt, representing only 1.3% of total 2021 EU CO2 emissions and 4% of annual power sector emissions.

Some 14 GW of coal-fired plants have been placed on standby, adding 1.5% to the EU's total installed power generation capacity of 920 GW.

The majority are in Germany, which has approved 8 GW of reserve capacity as part of its Replacement Power Plant Provision Act adopted July 8.

Climate objectives intact

In May, the European Commission published its updated REPowerEU communication.

Ember said that the communication had incorporated an increase in coal power (+105 TWh) and falling gas power (-240 TWh) without derailing EU climate objectives. "Analysis by Ember reveals that based on the REPowerEU targets, renewables would account for 69% of electricity production by 2030," it said.

Platts Analytics' base case now forecasts German hard coal dispatch of 8.7 GW in 2023 and 6.2 GW in 2024, compared with 6.5 GW in 2022 and actual dispatch of 4.5 GW-10.2 GW in 2017-2021.

Removal of production constraints on Dutch coal-fired power stations, meanwhile, could increase Dutch coal generation by 1.3 GW in the short term, Ember said.

In Italy, Platts Analytics sees coal output capped at 3.3 GW into 2023 "when we assume Fusina 3 and 4, and Brindisi Sud 1 as well as Monfalcone ... are all retired."

Spanish coal-fired generation in June saw its highest monthly output since February 2020 as exports to France boomed, system data showed June 30.

Platts assessed the price of CIF ARA spot coal (15-60 days, 6,000 NAR) at $324.90/mt July 12, a fresh record eclipsing March 9's $323.05/mt, S&P Global Commodity Insights data showed.