Germany is respected for leadership in the EU's bold Energy Plan, including consideration of the nuclear energy option. So Angela Merkel must be cringing at WWF's report (pdf) last week that 10 of the top 30 worst polluting power plants in Europe are located in Germany. To make matters worse, the WWF report calls for an end to government subsidies encouraging energy company plans to build another 26 coal-burning power plants in Germany, seemingly in direct contradiction to the German commitment to cleaner energy. Although the new plants will benefit from modern pollution control technologies and will replace older plants without such advantages, the root of the problem remains: brown coal, or lignite. Lignite is abundant in Germany, reducing reliance on foreign sourced fuels, but scores twice on the eco-uglies chart: in addition to having high CO2 emissions per kilowatt-hour of energy produced, brown coal is extracted from open face mines which scar the German landscape, sometimes displacing entire towns.
The top two dirtiest power plants based on efficiency are both in Greece; however, due to their small capacities, these show up only in places 11 and 24 for contribution to overall CO2 emissions. Number one in overall emissions is Belchatow in Poland, also burning lignite and coming just out of the top ten in the efficiency ranking. UK ties Germany with ten power plants in the dirty thirty, but none of the UK plants landed in the top ten for worst efficiency. Six of the ten German plants in the list landed in the top 10--both for worst efficiency and for total absolute emissions of CO2. Overall, WWF calculates that the dirty thirty alone account for 10 percent of CO2 emissions in Europe.