Permanent retirement was announced for parts of two thermal power plants of 1.2 GW in total that have been off the grid for a year or two years. The government pledged to shut down the remaining 2.2 GW in coal plants in northern Greece by 2028, and the faith of the planned Ptolemaida 5 unit is unclear.
The Regulatory Authority for Energy (RAE) of Greece annulled the production license for the Public Power Co.’s coal units Kardia 1 and 2 and Amyntaio 1 and 2. Their share of the country’s lignite-fired thermal power capacity was 27%.
PPC’s Kardia took its two units offline in June 2019, when they exhausted the 17,500 operating hours that they were entitled to according to the European Union’s environmental legislation under the opt-out regime. The Amyntaio power plant, which spent its 17,500 hours in November 2018, still continued to operate until May 2 of last year. The four lignite units in the country’s north had a nominal capacity of 1.2 GW in total.
The official retirement is the first since 2016, when Ptolemaida 3 and 4 were written off, Green Tank noted. Greece announced in 2019 that it would phase out lignite by 2028 and replace coal capacity with renewables. The Balkan country counts on European and own funds and loans to revitalize its coal regions.
Closed thermal power units were among worst polluters in EU
The lignite-fired systems that have just been taken off the board were some of the worst polluters in the EU for decades. Between 2012 and 2019, Kardia 1 and 2 emitted dust that was almost 15 times above the legal limit. Amyntaio exceeded the sulfur dioxide ceiling by more than six times.
Regions dependent on coal have been economically devastated and they need support
“The official retirement of the four lignite units in Amyntaio and Kardia underlines the urgent need for supporting the country’s lignite regions, which are already facing the consequences of the observed collapse of Greece’s lignite production. Greece has every opportunity to fully switch from lignite to clean energy in a socially just manner without the ‘mediation’ of fossil gas as a ‘transition fuel’,” said Nikos Mantzaris, a senior policy analyst at the Green Tank.
Plans for Ptolemaida 5 on thin ice
PPC is still determined to build the Ptolemaida 5 lignite-fired unit of 660 MW. President and Chief Executive Officer Georgios Stassis said last week that the planned facility may be converted to gas by 2025 instead of 2028, ending Greece’s coal era earlier. As the coal power plant is planned to be finished next year, it is even more doubtful that it could avoid heavy losses due to rising prices of carbon dioxide emission certificates and the cost of the switch to the other fossil fuel.
The only remaining coal power plant project in Greece may generate CO2 emission expenses of over EUR 1 billion by 2028
Even if the CO2 costs remain the same by 2028, PPC would be burdened with more than EUR 1 billion, almost as much as the new unit would be worth. If the European Union decides to stop funding fossil gas projects at the end of 2025, the expenses for the switch would rise further. Another issue is the retail price of district heating for the impoverished local community.
RAE said Greece now has 2.2 GW in coal-fueled capacity left in the north, in the Western Macedonia region, of which 1.6 GW are the five units of the Agios Dimitrios plant, and the remaining 612 MW in Kardia 3 and 4. PPC also has two lignite plants in the Peloponnese peninsula, in Megalopolis. They are due to be closed in 2023.