Poland is the most-polluting country in the EU when it comes to producing power, a snapshot of latest data reveals.
The real-time statistics, mapped by Tomorrow founder Olivier Corradi, show Germany and Estonia are among the bloc’s dirtiest.
Norway’s, Sweden’s and France’s power production has the least impact on climate change, according to the data, although the latter two are reliant on nuclear energy, which some consider to be unsafe and not as cost-effective over the long-term.
Experts say the map shows the need to boost energy inter-connectivity across the EU, so countries can sell excess renewable energy when they produce more than they can use.
Poland had four of the 30 most polluting coal-fired power plants in the EU, according to a 2013 report by Climate Action Network.
Coal, claimed to be the deadliest air pollutant, has an almost mythical status in the country, according to Wendel Trio, director of CAN Europe.
The country generated 85 percent of its electricity from coal in 2013, according to data from the World Bank.
“There’s a long history of having been dependent on coal [in Poland], when you compare to the Nordic countries or France and Belgium that actually don’t have that history, or that history has been gone for a long time,” Trio told Euronews.
“Coal has this mythical status of the material source that gave the country some independence from Russia, even though a lot of the coal being used in Polish coal plants is being imported from Russia, because coal-mining in Poland has become very expensive.”
Germany’s dual climate challenge
The high level of Germany’s pollution from power production will surprise people, said Trio, given the country’s commitment to renewable energy.
The move to renewables is part of Germany’s Energiewende (energy transition), which includes the phasing out of nuclear power.
But, despite this, the country still has a high dependence on coal – six of the EU’s most polluting coal-fired power plants in 2013 were based in Germany.
“One of the big surprises for many people is the high-carbon intensity of the electricity production in Germany because that’s the country where renewable energy has been promoted most,” said Trio. “They’ve lead the solar energy revolution by investing a lot.
“The double challenge for Germany is to get out of nuclear and reduce emissions in line with climate goals.”
What can be done to cut pollution from power production?
Trio says more money should be invested in building energy connections between EU countries, in particular France with Spain and the Baltic countries with the rest of the EU.
“It shows there’s still a lot of investments to be done in order to ensure a European-level playing field because we know that definitely for the further penetration of renewables having a European market, rather than a national one, is beneficial.
“Renewables often or sometimes produce electricity at moments when demand in one country might be low but on a European scale will actually ease that out and will ensure there’s renewable electricity anywhere it’s needed.
“The interconnections between countries I think will be the biggest challenge going forward.
“Countries need to recognise, like for any other commodity, trading will play an important role and we need to look at energy security not at the national level but more at the EU level.
How was the map produced?
Corradi told Euronews he takes live data on power production in the EU (from the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity) and combines with a coefficient (approved by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) to work out the impact of each energy unit on global warming.
There is at least one limitation to the infographic. It only provides a snapshot at a given point in time – we took data on Sunday, January 8 – so it’s conceivable, during periods of high wind or rain for example, the proportion of a country’s energy produced by renewables would increase and cut its polluting effect.