Lignite looks likely to stay a major source of Greek energy until 2040

Greece will be able to use lignite until at least 2040, and it may also be able to reduce the fuel’s carbon dioxide emissions, thus removing the major objection to its continued use, according to presentations at a conference recently organized by the Association of Mining Companies in Kozani in Macedonia. The presentations also demonstrated that western Macedonia remains Greece’s energy heartland as the richest region in fuel reserves. The abundant reserves of lignite, which has been the fuel of choice for over 50 years now, has turned electricity company Public Power Corporation (PPC) into the second-largest producer of lignite in the EU and the fifth largest globally. Over the past three years, annual production has averaged 70 million tons. The contribution of lignite stations to energy production over the past five years has ranged between 66.2 and 72.8 percent. The peak was 31,731 gigawatt-hours (GWh) in 2003. Lignite is not only a fuel of strategic importance for PPC and the country, but also the fuel of the future, according to the director of PPC’s lignite center, Christos Papageorgiou. He says that lignite provides a secure supply, low mining costs, price stability, a competitive price per KWh and, additionally, provides jobs and contributes to regional growth. «PPC has exclusive rights of exploitation for the lignite reserves until their depletion. It is estimated that reserves in western Macedonia will last over 38 years and in Megalopolis (in the Peloponnese) about 18 years, ensuring plenty of access to PPC’s main fuel,» Papageorgiou told the conference. The cost of mining lignite has remained relatively stable when compared to the cost of acquisition of other fuels, shielding Greece from the sharp fluctuations in the price of competing fuels, especially oil and natural gas. Indeed, Greece has among the lowest electricity rates in Europe, both for households and for industrial users. The lignite mined in the Western Macedonia Lignite Center has less sulfur and calcium oxide content than other types of lignite found in Europe. According to data provided by the Institute of Geological and Mineral Research, the verified reserves of lignite reach about 6.7 billion tons, of which 3.3 billion are exploitable. The lignites in western Macedonia and Megalopolis are classified as «poor» solid fuels, in terms of the energy they provide. The caloric capacity of Greek lignite ranges between 1,050 and 1,100 kilocalories per kilogram (Kcal/kg) in the Megalopolis fields, 1,800-2,300 Kcal/kg in the Florina fields, 1,300-1,400 Kcal/kg in the Ptolemais fields and 1,050-1,300 in the Amyntaio fields. Current developments, however, pose a threat to the use of lignite. The challenges and uncertainties of the new deregulated energy market conditions and particularly the expected tariff on solid fuel based on carbon dioxide emissions may affect future use. «The anti-pollution technology already used or about to be implemented in PPC units, combined with already implemented high performance technologies, completely ensure the compatibility of lignite use with environmental protection, even in the new, stricter regulatory environment,» Papageorgiou said.