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Europe Closes Gas-Fired Power Plants and Builds More Coal-Fired Ones

The European Union does more then anybody in the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save the climate. But at the same time it increases the share of electricity generated using the dirtiest source of energy - coal. Gas-fired power plants in the region are being closed, and those that are gas-fired are being opened.

This can hardly be called an efficient environmental policy. In addition, many analysts believe that this is detrimental to the industry of the European Union. But for a number of reasons it still happens.

This could happen because of the Americans. They changed the world energy industry by starting to produce shale gas. As a result, the prices for natural gas in the USA fell, and it became cheaper than coal. Therefore, having lost some of the market share at home, American coal mining companies began to look for customers in other parts of the world. In Europe, American coal now costs less than gas, for this reason the power plants began to transit to it.

According to the forecast by Fabio Marchetti, a director of relations with the state authorities of the Italian energy company Eni, by 2015 Germany will close gas-fired power plants with a total capacity of 10 GW and open coal-fired power plants with a capacity of 7 GW. And this is despite the fact that Germany is the EU leader in subsidizing renewable energy sources.

Another reason could consist in a decline in the economy of the eurozone. The reduction in production volumes has led to decrease in carbon dioxide emissions and, accordingly, the price that enterprises pay in the European system for trading quotas thereon. Along with the increase in energy efficiency of enterprises, this led to the fact that low price for emissions reduced incentives to avoid using dirty energy resources.

Reducing use of gas for electricity production has a large impact on the volume of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. According to BP estimates, the environmental benefit of replacing 1% of the generating capacity of electricity from coal to gas is equivalent to an increase in the use of renewable energy sources by 11%.

In addition, increasing the use of coal in electricity generation can cause another undesirable effect - instability of electricity supply. Renewable energy sources produce electricity with interruptions, so for the uninterrupted operation of the system it is necessary that other power plants are ready to supplement or replace them. Gas-fired power plants for this purpose are better than coal-fired ones, because they need less time to operate at full capacity. Therefore, combination of renewable energy sources with coal-fired power plants makes electricity less reliable.

Many believe that natural gas in the USA will be much cheaper than in Europe for a long time. According to the basic forecast of the International Energy Agency (IEA), by 2035 electricity in the EU and Japan will be about twice as expensive as in the USA This greatly reduces the competitiveness of European industry, especially chemical industry.