The Greek Public Power Corporation (PPC) and the Greek government are planning the construction of a new dirty giant: the lignite plant “Ptolemaida V”. This anachronistic project will produce 660 MW of electric power and will cost 1.4 billion euros. The German KfW Bank Group is the only investor on this obsolete project.

Lignite has serious impacts:

  • On the environment and people, as it drastically accelerates climate change. Due to its geographical location, Greece will be amongst the first European victims experiencing the dramatic effects of climate change on it’s environment, society and economy.
  • On human health, as it is linked to serious chronic diseases such as cancer. The health costs caused by Greek lignite plants are estimated between 1.47 and 4.09 billion euros annually.

It is also economically non-viable

Who decides that the country will have to sacrifice human health and environment, for the sake of unsustainable “growth”? A recent WWF econometric study proves that Ptolemaida V will have a negative impact on Greek economy.

There is another way…

Financing giants, one after the other, are pulling out of coal-fired power plants. Just recently, the EIB announced that Ptolemaida V is no longer on it’s investment radar.  As a result, Ptolemaida V is now left with only one investor, the German KfW Bank Group. Yet, KfW is a leader in financing investments in renewables and energy efficiency in Germany and other countries. Couldn’t this be the case for Greece as well?

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Climate change is already here…

  • On 13 May 2013, an average daily CO2 concentration of 400.17 ppm was registered at NOAA’s observatory in Mauna Loa, something that had not happened since the Pliocene Epoch, between 3 and 5 million years ago.
  • 2012 has been the 9th warmest year on record, while 9 out of the 10 warmest years in history have all occurred in the 21st century.
  • The European land temperature during the last decade was 1.3°C warmer than the pre-industrial average.
  • Heat waves have increased in frequency and length, river flooding has increased in northern Europe and minimum river flows have decreased in southern Europe.
  • A Potsdam Institute study found that there are now 5 times as many record-breaking hot months worldwide than could be expected without long-term global warming.
  • According to a study of the Berkeley Earth Project, the rise in average global land temperature is approximately 1.5oC in the past 250 years and about 0.9o in the past 50 years.

Inaction is not a choice…

  • A study published in the scientific journal of the USA’s National Academy of Sciences revealed that a 1 °C rise in global temperature will lead to a 2-7fold increase in the frequency of Katrina-magnitude events in the Atlantic.
  • Floods may cost the European Union €23.5bn annually by 2050, double the 2013 amount, because of climate change and economic development. Damage from floods averaged €4.9bn a year from 2000 to 2012, before rising to €12bn in 2013.
  • A World Bank review warns that if no action is taken against climate change, the average global temperature will increase by 4°C by the end of the century, which will, in turn, trigger coastal zone erosions, destructions in agriculture, increase in malnutrition rates, unprecedented heat waves and irreversible loss of biodiversity.
  • According to a study by WWF Greece, Greek cities Thessaloniki, Patras, Lamia and Larisa will have 20 more days of heatwaves per year, the total annual precipitation will be reduced, extreme rainfall and floods are expected to increase by 10-20% and the risk of fire occurrence will increase. These will have unpredictable impacts on two of the most pivotal sectors of economic activity in Greece: agriculture and tourism.
  • Climate change already contributes to the death of 400000 people each year, while, until 2030, it is possible that 100 million people will lose their lives as a result of climate change.
  • In 2030, the cost of climate change will reach 3.2% of global GDP and by 2100 it will surpass 10%. The poorer countries will suffer more, losing 11% of their GDP.
  • Specifically for Greece, according to a study by the National Bank of Greece, the total cumulative cost for the Greek economy by 2100 , will amount to €701 billion (Non-Action scenario), which is more than double Greece’s national debt in 2009.

What can we do?

  • IEA computed that in order to stabilise the global mean temperature increase at 2oC, coal consumption corresponding to the OECD countries should drop from 198 million tonnes in 2010 to 41 million tonnes in 2035, i.e. an 80% reduction.
  • According to a landmark paper published in Nature magazine, in order to achieve the 2oC target with a 75% probability, we can afford to burn less than half of the already known fossil fuel reserves
  • In December 2012 in Doha, the world’s government representatives declared that “they will urgently work towards the drastic reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions required to hold the increase in global average temperature below 2°C above pre-industrial levels
  • In 2011, the EU announced the Energy Roadmap 2050, which includes the goal of reducing greenhouse gases by 80-95% compared to 1990 levels.
  • In 2012, Greece announced its corresponding Energy Roadmap, which includes a reduction of greenhouse gases by 60-70% compared to 2005 levels and a share of renewables 85-100% in electricity. 
  • According to a study conducted by WWF Greece, Ptolemaida V is economically non-viable, if Greece stands up to its national commitments for clean energy and sound climate policies, until 2050.

Air pollution from lignite plants goes constantly off the roof with a devastating impact on public health.

  • CO2 emissions from all lignite plants in Greece during the 5 year period 2008-2012 reached 206,362,593 tonnes.
  • In 2010, PM10 particles surpassed the 50 μg/m3 limit 56 days in Kozani, 109 days in Ptolemaida and 153 days in Florina whereas Directive 1999/30 prohibits the average daily PM10 concentration to exceed the limit more than 35 days a year. All three cities are situated within the lignite areas of Western Macedonia.
  • Calculations performed with data and methodologies described in a European Environment Agency report, estimated that air pollution caused by the Western Macedonia lignite units was responsible for 461 deaths just for 2009.
  • A study conducted in the Krokos, Aiani and Tranovalto Kozanis villages by the AHEPA Hospital of Thessaloniki found an increase in the number of deaths resulting from thromboembolism by 50%, 43% and 55% respectively, during 1992-2007. All three villages are surrounded by the lignite mining fields.
  • A study conducted by the Bodossaki General Hospital of Ptolemaida revealed that the allergic rhinitis rate in the city of Ptolemaida, situated next to the lignite fields, is three times the Greek national average.
  • An increased rate of occurrence of air quality-related diseases is observed in the Kozani prefecture, where lignite activity takes place, is observed, compared to the neighboring Greneva prefecture.

Lignite burning releases dangerous chemicals and heavy metals to the environment.

  • Increased markers of heavy metals and radioactivity have been detected in wastewater of the Agios Dimitrios lignite plant, which have been transferred to nearby crops through irrigation.
  • High concentrations of chromium and nickel have been measured in the particles retained by the upper respiratory system, in the flying ash of the Komanos lignite field.
  • Increased concentrations of arsenic, selenium, antimonium, and uranium have been found in the ash of the Megalopoli lignite plant (southern Greece) .
  • The European Environmental Agency indicates coal power plants as the main source of mercury emissions in Europe.

Lignite is constantly asking for water. A lot of water.

  • The cooling towers of lignite power plants consume 5,500 cubic meters of water per hour.
  • The level of the lake Vegoritida that PPC’s lignite stations used up until 1997 has dropped 30 meters, has lost approximately 80% of its water volume and at the same time, heavy water degradation has been noted due to the deposit of pollutants (e.g. heavy metals).
  • PPC recently decided to cover the water needs of the Amyntaio and Ptolemaida power stations using the Polifitos Lake, fed by the Aliakmonas River. This translates into 72,000,000 cubic meters of water, approximately 30,000,000 cubic meters more than the volume of drinking water the citizens of the entire prefecture of Western Macedonia consume.
  • Dramatic groundwater depletion has also been observed in the Sarigiol basin adjacent to the Ptolemaida mines. As a result, the Municipal Company of Water Supply and Sewage of the Kozani prefecture has filed a lawsuit against the PPC, claiming €16.5 million.

Lignite mining is responsible for the evacuation of entire villages in Western Macedonia and the downgrade in the security and quality of life of the local population

  • Since 1976 more than 4,000 residents from five villages that had the “privilege” to stand on lignite reserves, have been displaced in order to allow the expansion of PPC’s lignite mines.
  • The relocation procedures typically last for years, thus resulting in a situation where residents live for a long time next door to mining projects.
  • A geological rift appeared in 2010 in Mavropigi village, while in 2012 a landslide occurred in Kardia, thus risking the safety of the miners.
  • Land remediation is extremely slow, as only 33 million square meters out of a total of 213 million have been restored.
  • The relocation costs exceed € 120 million until now.
  • Just for the infrastructure of the new villages Pontokomi and Mavropigi, € 24 million is required.

So the “cheap” lignite has many “hidden” costs, which may not appear in the electricity bill, but you and your children will pay for them one way or another …

  • From 1/1/2013 when PPC is obliged to purchase all its emission rights, the 41,000,000 tonnes emitted on average by its lignite power plants, will cost from € 200 million - 1.2 billion per year, which will lead to major increases in the electricity bills. 
  • According to the European Environmental Agency the external cost resulting from the operation of lignite stations in 2009 ranged between €2.33 and €3.91 billion (or 76,3-127,9 €/ MWh).
  • Health and Environmental Alliance (HEAL), a non-profit organisation of 70 members, calculated that the cost associated with the operation of lignite stations in Greece in 2009 ranges from €1.47 to 4.09 billion (or 48.1-133.9 €/ MWh).
  • Α study conducted by Harvard’s Medical School researchers, shows that the incorporation of the entire external cost in the production cost of coal-fired electricity production, would increase the latter by 93.6-268.9 $/MWh.
  • The new plant will cost € 1.4 billion.
  • It will emit 4.6 million tonnes of CO2 per year, which are estimated to cost around € 92 million in 2020, € 184 million in 2030 and € 240 million from 2040 and thereon.
  • CO2 emissions will be almost double than the limit of 550 gr/KWh set by the European Investment Bank for financing new coal plants.
  • It will release an annual of 2,100 tn SO2, 2,800 tn NOx and 140 tn of particles on top of the emissions of the neighboring lignite plants, Agios Dimitrios, Kardia and Amyntaio (49,037 tn NOx, 54,539 tn SOx, 26,272 tn PM10, 5,236 tn PM2.5), which will continue to operate.
  • RWE Power International estimates that lignite from Ptolemaida emits 7 times more ash than hard coal of comparable quality, which in turn leads to higher installation and operation costs.
  • The quantities of water required for the operation of the new plant are estimated at 14 million cubic meters per year. This water will be drawn from the artificial lake of Polyfytos. The operational needs of the mines will require an additional 25 million cubic meters of groundwater. Runoff and wastewater will be delivered to the nearby Soulos stream, which flows to the Natura 2000 Vegoritida Lake and is already heavily polluted with waste produced by the operating lignite plants and mines in Ptolemaida.
  • According to research conducted by the University of Stuttgart on behalf of Greenpeace, the operation of Ptolemaida V will cause 100 premature deaths per year, while the external costs for the Greek economy are estimated to be more that € 200 million per year.
  • The new plant will create just 250 permanent jobs in Greece, which constitute 3.6% of the total work force of PPC in the area (6,882) and 2.5% of the work force in Western Macedonia (280,000), the region with the highest unemployment levels in Greece.
  • According to Berliner Zeitung which cites a paper by the German Ministry of Finance, by 2017, up to 1,150 German jobs would be safeguarded by the deal.
  • According to a study conducted by WWF Greece, Ptolemaida V is economically non-viable, if Greece stands up to its national commitments for clean energy and sound climate policies, until 2050.
  • The KfW banking group funded in Germany the pioneering program “100,000 roofs of solar energy”.
  • The KfW banking group is funding in Germany the most ambitious renewable energy and energy storage programs.
  • The KfW banking group funds in Greece the Ptolemaida V lignite power plant, which will pollute the air of Western Macedonia with 2,100 tn SO2, 2,800 tn NOx, 140 tn of particulate matter and 4.6 million tn of CO2.
  • The KfW banking group has set as an eligibility criterion for funding coal plants, a minimum of 43% efficiency, which the new PPC unit Ptolemaida V does not satisfy (40.5%).
  • The KfW banking group requires a study on the social impact of funded projects, but in the case of Ptolemaida V no such study has been performed.
  • The KfW banking group has agreed to provide the PPC with a loan of €739 million, which covers more than 50% of the total construction cost of Ptolemaida V. 
  • Crisis stricken Greece urgently needs financial support, especially by institutions known to support sustainable development, like  KfW. The money offered by KfW to Ptolemaida V can support the development of a living Greek economy, by financing for example renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.
  • June 2013: President Obama announces the adoption of very strict emission limits for financing new coal-fired power plants in third countries.
  • July 2013: the World Bank announces its new energy strategy which will limit the financing new coal-fired power plants in developing countries to "rare circumstances". 
  • July 2013: the European Investment Bank decides to stop financing power plants based on fossil fuels if they emit more than 550 gr CO2/Kwh. Ptolemaida V will emit almost double that.   
  • September 2013: President Obama’s commitment to adopt very strict emission limits for financing new coal-fired power plants is co-signed by Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Island.
  • November 2013: Britain announces that it is joining the US in ending the support for public financing of new coal-fired power plants overseas. During the last 7 years the USA have spent almost $ 9 billion and Britain approximately $ 500 million for this purpose.
  • December 2013: The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development commits to helping countries switch from coal to cleaner fuels and renewable energy.
  • January 2014: 17 philanthropic foundations, managing a total of $ 1.8 billion, get together to divest from fossil-fuel and invest in clean energy.
  • Technological developments have dramatically reduced the cost of production from renewable energy sources (RES), as well as their feed-in-tariffs in recent years.
    • In Germany, the feed-in-tariff for large photovoltaics up to 10 MW has dropped by 78% in less than ten years, from 457€/ΜWh in January 2004 to 98.8€/MWh in October 2013.
    • In 2030, the cost of electricity production from rooftop photovoltaics in Southern European countries will be 43 euros/MWh, significantly less than the corresponding cost of lignite.
    • In India and Italy photovoltaics are already competitive to fossil fuels in electricity production.
    • Wind is now cheaper than coal for electricity production in Australia.
  • A team of economists from various institutions estimated that the total annualized cost of installing renewable power capable of replacing all the energy produced by fossil fuels used in the EU, fell in 2013 to the levels of the annual cost of fossil fuels in the EU (approx. 550 billion).
  • According to the European Commission’s Energy Roadmap 2050, in the high RES scenario (75% RES in the final energy consumption and 97% in electricity production), the energy cost is very similar to the cost in the reference scenario, which has significantly lower shares of RES. 
  • In the European Commission’s Impact Assessment, that was presented to support the EC’s proposal for the 2030 climate and energy package, it is shown that binding targets for RES and energy efficiency (EE) do not increase the energy cost. On the contrary, they have additional benefits compared to the case of a single reduction of greenhouse gases (GHG) target. Specifically:
    • The 3 targets (RES, EE and GHG) lead to average electricity prices of 178 €/MWh, compared to 179 €/MWh in the case of the single target (GHG).
    • For households in particular, the cost in both cases is identical.
    • The 3 targets offer 568,000 more jobs, save € 18 billion annually from the reduction of fossil fuel imports and lead to a lower carbon price in 2030 (11 €/tn vs 40 €/tn) compared to the single GHG target.
  • Greece’s Public Power Corporation remains a laggard in RES development.
    • Out of 1,800 MW of total installed capacity of wind farms in Greece, the company owns just 65 MW.
    • In photovoltaics it only holds a market share of 0.05%.
    • It has abandoned the plan for a 50 MW photovoltaic park in Megalopoli.
    • It has abandoned its highly publicized plans for one of the largest solar parks in the world, in ​​Ptolemaida, with a capacity of 200 MW.