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Europe's 30 Dirtiest Power Plants: WWF Slams Germany's Addiction to Coal

While Germany has portrayed itself as a leader in tackling climate change in Europe, the facts on the ground reveal a different picture. The 30 worst polluting power plants in Europe produce 10 percent of the EU's CO2 emissions -- and 10 of them are in Germany.

Germany's coal-fired power plants are among the EU's worst CO2 emitters.
AP

Germany's coal-fired power plants are among the EU's worst CO2 emitters.

Should the European Union be serious about its goal to drastically cut carbon emissions, it shouldn't be difficult to figure out where to start. According to a new study, just 30 coal-fired power plants account for 10 percent of the European Union's annual CO2 emissions. And 10 of those plants are to be found in Germany.

A report released Thursday by the environmental group WWF names and shames the 30 power plants in Europe that emit the most CO2 per hour of energy produced, and it makes for sober reading. Six of the 10 German plants that make the list are in the top 10. Four belong to the energy giant RWE: Niederaussem is the third most polluting power station, and plants at Frimmersdorf, Weisweiler and Neurath come in at fifth, sixth and seventh. Two other plants are operated by Vattenfall: Jänschwalde, deemed fourth worst polluter, and the plant at Boxberg, which comes in tenth. All of the top 10 polluters run on lignite, or brown coal.

The WWF report, which lists the power plants according to their energy efficiency, is based on the 2006 data used for emissions trading. The two worst offenders are in Greece, with Agios Dimitrios named the dirtiest European power plant: it produces around 1.35 kilograms of CO2 per hour of kilowatt power. Britain shares the dubious honor with Germany of having 10 plants in the top 30, Poland has four, and Spain, Portugal, Italy and the Czech Republic have one each.

The environmental group said that, according to its analysis, the 30 power plants were responsible for 393 million tons of CO2 emissions last year -- a whopping 10 percent of the EU's total emissions.

The WWF singled out Germany decision to continue building coal-fired power plants for particular criticism. It called on Berlin to stop subsiding the coal industry and instead switch to other energy sources. Utility companies want to set up a total of 26 new coal-fired power plants in Germany during the coming years.

"Most of the utilities in Europe believe that they can get away with business as usual," WWF campaigner Stephan Singer told Associated Press. "What counts is their real investment on the ground and if you look at Germany, of the 28 gigawatts of new power capacity that is planned, the majority is new coal."

This contrasts sharply with Germany's attempt to present itself as a leader in tackling climate change in Europe. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as current EU president, helped push through a deal in March that set a binding target for all 27 member states to cut their CO2 emissions by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

At the same time, Germany has a bountiful supply of brown coal, which offers a cheap and reliable alternative to natural gas which has to be imported from unreliable suppliers outside of Europe.

smd/ap

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