Still Burning is a network working against the global hard coal infrastructure.

7.2 Dirty ten: Europe’s filthiest power stations

by | 30 Mar, 2021 | Transport and Usage

The largest and dirtiest hard coal power station in Europe (in terms of CO2 emissions) is Kozienice, located ten kilometres from the small town with the same name in central Poland. It is run by the Polish company Enea. It ranks third in sulphur dioxide emissions (see below) and second in terms of NOx released in 2017. It runs at an efficiency rate of 45.59 percent. Combined, Enea’s Kozienice and Polaniec power stations released over 17 million tonnes of CO2 in 2019, almost a fifth of Poland’s total emissions and more than the total emissions of Slovenia.

Who’s responsible?

RWE released over 12 million tonnes of CO2 from its three power stations in Germany and the Netherlands. PGE (full name Polska Grupa Energetyczna) released over 11 million tonnes from its two power stations, and Enel released over 11 million tonnes from two coal power stations. In other words, despite commitments to climate change mitigation targets and narratives of the ‘green economy’ and ‘energy transitions’, Europe’s reliance on coal continues. In April 2020, there were plans for a further 45 power stations in Europe. Turkey alone is planning 28 new power stations. Others are being planned in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. Germany has recently commissioned a brand-new power station in Datteln – justified by the company as being ‘more efficient’ than older ones (see chapter 7.6). 15 European countries have national coal phaseout plans in place, with a timeline ranging from 2020 in Austria, Belgium, and Sweden, to 2038 in Germany.

Vattenfall’s supply chain

In 2017, Vattenfall took the unusually transparent decision to list some of the mining companies that supply the coal it burns. The company owned five European coal power stations operating in 2019 including Hamburg-Moorburg in Hamburg, Germany which was the eighth most polluting in Europe and second dirtiest Germany. In the same year, Vattenfall used 4.4 million tonnes of hard coal. The mining companies that supply Vattenfall include:

Peabody (USA), a company that operates mountaintop removal coal mines in Eastern USA. It created a daughter company, Patriot Coal Corporation, to which Peabody transferred expensive risks and liabilities for existing mines, including responsibility for post-mine restoration. If the company fails, Peabody will be protected from legal responsibilities and still be able to secure future funding.80 Peabody operates the North Antelope Rochelle mine in Wyoming, the largest coal mine in the USA, eleven other US coal mines, and nine mines in Australia.

Cerrejón (Colombia), a joint venture between Anglo American, BHP, and Glencore which operates Latin America’s largest opencast coal mine in the La Guajira region of Colombia. The mine creates huge problems for surrounding communities, including dust, loss of water, as well as paramilitary activity (see chapter 5.3).

Glencore (Colombia and South Africa), an Anglo-Swiss multinational commodity trading and mining company whose headquarters are located in Baar, Switzerland. In Colombia, Glencore’s subsidiary Prodeco and rival Drummond operate a coal mine in the region of Cesar. With the advent of industrial mining operations, paramilitaries started operating in the region and killed over 3,100 people, displacing 55,000 farmers, between 1996-2006.

Anglo American (South Africa), a British multinational company which exploits a large range of minerals. In South Africa, Anglo American exports from four underground mines. The company has been moving away from producing coal for domestic consumption to supplying international export markets.

Polska Grupa Górnicza (Poland), a Polish company that claims to hold the largest hard coal resources and extraction potential in the EU. It has mines located in 45 Polish communities.

Kaproben (Russia) is alleged to mine coal in eastern Ukraine, from the Russian annexed Donetsk People’s Republic, and Luhansk People’s Republic. The coal is then illegally transported to plants located in the Russian Federation. There, the certificate of origin is replaced, and the newly re-registered products are shipped to Europe as Russian coal, thereby evading stringent sanctions imposed by the USA and EU on the annexations of Ukraine, and providing money to the regime.

SUEK (Russia), the largest producer of thermal coal in Russia, and operator of 12 mines in the highly polluted Kuzbass region of Russia (see chapter 5.1).

Kuzbassrazrezugol (KRU) (Russia) is the second largest Russian coal company and one of the largest in the Kuzbass (see chapter 5.1). The company operates many (mainly opencast) mines, including Bachatsky, the largest opencast mine in the Kuzbass, where coal extraction has caused earthquakes.

JSC Shubarkol-Komir (Kazakhstan) operates two opencast mines in Kazakhstan.

SDS Ugol (Russia), the third-largest coal producer in Russia and one of the three largest Russian coal exporters.

All countries need to phase out coal as fast as possible. In the meantime, however, greater transparency is needed about where coal is extracted – so that companies’ direct impacts can be monitored and corporations held to account. Vattenfall must go further and name the specific mines, while other corporations must own up to the specific damage their business finances, list their mining suppliers and the quantities of coal mined in different mines/countries, and stop hiding behind the Bettercoal initiative (see chapter eight).

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