22 April 2021
Greece brings coal exit forward three years to 2025
ATHENS, 22 April 2021 – Greece will stop burning lignite to produce energy in 2025, making it the tenth European country to have already exited coal or to plan to do so by 2025. The accelerated coal exit comes after PPC decided –because of skyrocketing carbon permit prices– to abandon the original plan to operate its under construction Ptolemaida 5 lignite plant until 2028. PPC plans to close all of Greece’s other existing lignite plants by 2023. With Ptolemaida 5 not scheduled to come online until 2022, doubts persist about whether it will burn lignite at all.
PPC has sunk EUR 1.4 billion into Ptolemaida 5, but after numerous failed attempts to obtain a derogation for the plant, has decided to convert it into an unsustainable 1GW fossil gas unit in 2025. Greece’s plan to install six new fossil gas plants (3.3 GW) is already in contradiction of its National Energy and Climate Plan , without accounting for the addition of Ptolemaida 5.
“PPC has finally realised it has wasted billions on Ptolemaida 5, and caused untold damage to people’s health and the Greek economy,” said Mahi Sideridou, Managing Director at Europe Beyond Coal. “The fact that the EU’s fourth-largest lignite producer is abandoning coal tells you everything you need to know about the state of the industry. Now PPC needs to turn its full attention to the country’s enormous renewable energy potential. Former coal communities deserve far better than to be tied to more fossil fuels, like fossil gas.”
A comparative analysis of four different replacement options for Ptolemaida 5 conducted by the Green Tank, ClientEarth and enervis  shows that converting the lignite plant to a renewables-based thermal energy storage facility would produce cheaper electricity than switching to fossil gas under realistic carbon price scenarios, and would be fully compatible with the EU’s new 2030 climate target, the EU Green Deal and the Sustainable Taxonomy Regulation. Meanwhile, a new report by WWF  presents more than 50 combinations of renewable technologies to support a new district heating system in Western Macedonia, where the majority of Greece’s lignite plants will soon close.
“The decision to switch technologies in Greece’s last lignite plant Ptolemaida 5 by 2025 marks the end of the biggest cross-party mistake in recent Greek energy policy. PPC and the Greek government should avoid making another one, and scrap plans to switch Ptolemaida 5 from lignite to fossil gas. The conversion of the lignite plant to a clean energy storage facility will generate cheaper electricity, maintain jobs in a region plagued by high unemployment rates, and provide the country with much needed additional energy storage capacity”, said Nikos Mantzaris, Senior Policy Analyst for the Green Tank, and one of the main contributors of the techno-economic analysis for Ptolemaida 5.
“The constant rise of the CO2 prices is ramping up the pressure on coal power plants across Europe, but switching from coal to fossil gas is not the solution,” said Dimitris Tsekeris, Energy Policy Officer, WWF Greece. “Fossil gas is in the same position as coal was 15 years ago, and will face a similar crisis of stranded assets in years to come. We need to lock-in sustainable alternatives, not more fossil fuels. Fossil gas cannot be part of this plan.”
Mahi Sideridou, Managing Director, Europe Beyond Coal campaign (Greek, English, French)
[email protected], +45 93 602033
Nikos Mantzaris, Senior Policy Analyst for the Green Tank (Greek, English)
mantzari[email protected], +30 210 72 33 384: +30 6937 32 4780
Dimitris Tsekeris, Energy Policy Officer, WWF Greece (Greek, English)
Alastair Clewer, Communications Officer, Europe Beyond Coal
[email protected], +49 176 433 07 185
- Greece’s NAtional Energy and Climate Plan: https://ec.europa.eu/energy/sites/ener/files/el_final_necp_main_en.pdf
- Replacement options for Ptolemaida 5: https://thegreentank.gr/en/2021/04/20/ptolemaida-5-replacement-options/
- Regions and Municipalities for a Just Transition: Sustainable District Heating Solutions for Western Macedonia: https://wwfeu.awsassets.panda.org/downloads/district_heating_western_macedonia_en.pdf
- PPC announcement reported here: https://energypress.gr/news/sto-klamp-ton-20-horon-poy-svinoyn-ton-anthraka-sta-mesa-tis-dekaetias-mpainei-i-ellada-telos-o
Europe Beyond Coal is an alliance of civil society groups working to catalyse the closures of coal mines and power plants, prevent the building of any new coal projects and hasten the just transition to clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency. Our groups are devoting their time, energy and resources to this independent campaign to make Europe coal free by 2030 or sooner. www.beyond-coal.eu