Greece is planning to ramp up the use of lignite as an alternative power source to natural gas, which has become extremely expensive in the wake of the war in Ukraine.
Lignite, or brown coal, is formed from naturally compressed peat and has a carbon content of around 35 percent. Greece is the tenth largest producer of lignite while Germany is the first.
Lignite is considered the lowest-ranked coal because it produces less heat than other coal varieties. It also releases a relatively high amount of sulfur and carbon dioxide, as well as toxic metals, making it one of the most harmful coals to human health. These harmful substances can also be released into the air whenever lignite is burned.
The Greek government’s plan to utilize the substance seems to go against its prior plan to turn the country into a coal-free nation by 2023.
Greece exploring lignite as solution to fuel crisis
In 2020, Mitsotakis announced a plan to cease the burning of lignite in all of the country’s power plants by 2023, save for at the Ptolemaida 4 power plant, which would be shut down by 2028.
Due to lignite’s potential to cause harm to human health and the environment, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was urged to phase out the use of lignite in the country.
Yet, the Greek Public Power Corporation (DEH) has already been asked to stop its efforts of phasing out lignite, and Mitsotakis himself ordered lignite mining to be ramped up by 50 percent in April.
Kostas Skrekas, Greek Minister of the Environment and Energy, told DEH to up the percentage of lignite in its electricity source to 17 to 20 percent from 5 percent, as it was last year.
The country’s newest power plant, the Ptolemaida 5, will begin operating on a trial basis in the fall.
The state-of-the-art Greek power plant, which has the capability of utilizing lignite, was built according to strict environmental standards with the hopes that any negative impacts to the environment that it might cause may be reduced.
War in Ukraine behind fuel and energy crisis
Russia supplied nearly 40 percent of Europe’s gas before the war with Ukraine, and the bloc has since attempted to reduce dependence on fuel from the country.
This has come in the form of sanctions and partial bans against Russian gas and fuel in the EU, as well as attempts to source fuel from other countries.
In retaliation, Russia has cut back supplies of fuel to European countries that depend on it. The Nord Stream pipeline, which links Russia to Germany, was shut down on Monday for ten days. While Russia claims that it was shut down for annual repairs, the EU fears that the pipeline, which is essential in bringing fuel to Europe, may be closed forever.
Before it was shut down, Russia reduced its gas supplies to the EU by way of the pipeline by around 60 percent.