Closing the UK’s remaining coal-fired power stations has made a bigger dent in national carbon pollution than a year of coronavirus lockdowns, analysis by generation plant manufacturer Wartsila has found.
The Finnish engineering company yesterday published a ranking of Europe’s ten biggest economies, comparing nations’ success in carbon curtailment achieved from power generation since lockdowns began in March 2020.
Britain falls in the middle of the table, its emissions down 7.6%, as cumulative power demand dropped 5.4% in the twelve months to 30 March 2021. Within that lower demand, cutting coal-fired power output by over 42% accounted for the bulk of the reduced carbon pollution.
Across the ten economies, emissions from Europe’s generators dropped by 7%, according to Tony Meski, senior development analyst at Wartsila Energy. Carbon pollution was cut by 36.7 Mt against the previous 12 months.
Austria topped the list for emissions reductions proportional to power load. Closure in April 2020 of the country’s biggest remaining coal-fired plant saw its emissions for the period plummet nearly 29%.
Spain scored Europe’s biggest carbon saving by volume, its 10.2Mt reduction in CO2 resulting from seven coal plants shutting in June.
Belgium propped up the list, its 4% uptick making it the only member to increase absolute carbon emissions as power demand shrank. But the country, plus ninth-ranked France, both can claim a significantly lower overall carbon component in their power output, due to the latter’s nuclear dependency.
Decarbonisation slowed in Europe’s biggest power market, underlining the need for Chancellor Merkel’s inject new life into the Energiewende. With Germany’s generation down 4.1% over the period, the carbon intensity of its power rose 2.4%, on the back of a switch to brown and conventional coal.
Once Covid restrictions are lifted, Wartsila’s Meski warned that emissions would rebound as energy demand recovers.
“The impact of Covid is like achieving a gold medal while spraining both ankles in the process,” he said.
“We’ve achieved record breaking carbon reductions, but our global economy has been put under intense strain. One year since lockdowns began, we must now focus on a strategic, scientific, and intelligent approach to cutting carbon emissions that enables us to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement while actually benefitting our economy and improving our quality of life.”