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UK ranks 5th in Wärtsilä’s COVID-19 Europe emissions scorecard

The COVID-19 European carbon scorecard. Image: Wärtsilä.

The COVID-19 European carbon scorecard. Image: Wärtsilä.

The UK has come in 5th position in a ranking of the drop in emissions seen across Europe since the start of national COVID-19 lockdowns.

The data – which comes from Wärtsilä’s Energy Transition Lab – covers Europe’s ten largest economies, with emissions on average falling by 7% in the past year.

The UK secured the fifth spot in the ranking with a reduction of -7.6%, although it lagged behind Austria (-28.8%), Spain (-24.1%), the Netherlands (-17.9%%) and Italy (-7.8%) according to new data from Wärtsilä. UK energy emissions fell by -7.6% as a result of a 5.4% drop in total load and a 42.2% reduction in coal generation.

Coal use is declining in the UK, with just one coal-fired power station to be in operation post-2022. This is due to EDF's recently-announced plans to shutter its West Burton A station in September of that year, as well as Drax ceasing generation using its remaining two coal units this year and SSE's Fiddlers Ferry and RWE's Aberthaw B both closing in March 2020. This will leave just Uniper's Ratcliffe-on-Soar plant generating past 2022.

In Wärtsilä’s ranking of emissions reductions, Sweden took the sixth spot with a -5.7% reduction, followed by Germany (-1.8%), Poland (-1.6%), France (-0.5%) and Belgium (+3.7%).

While Austria took the top spot with its -28.8% reduction - achieved partly through the closure of its last coal plant in April 2020 - it does actually come in seventh when considering the tonnage of emissions cut (1.7MtCO2 to 4.2Mt) due to the country’s relatively low electricity sector emissions.

Tony Meski, senior market development analyst at Wärtsilä Energy Business, described the impact of COVID-19 as being like "achieving a gold medal while spraining both ankles in the process", adding that both energy demand and emissions will rebound and therefore "we need to capture this moment and be ambitious with our investments in renewables and flexible technologies while they remain highly competitive".

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