The figures are based on reported emissions during the first phase (2005-2007) of the EU CO2 emissions trading scheme (EU ETS - see our Links Dossier), with the 2007 data provisional only at this stage.
German energy firm RWE is singled out by the study as the heaviest polluter as it relies heavily on coal and lignite for electricity production. Out of the 44.5 gigawatts (GW) of electricity RWE produced in 2007, 24.8 GW were fuelled with coal and lignite, according to the study.
"These two factors - the massive power generation capacity of RWE coupled with a high dependence on coal and lignite – make of RWE by far the largest CO2 emitter in Europe," the research firm said.
By contrast, companies which were left with the highest surplus of CO2 pollution permits during that period were:
- ArcelorMittal (18.5 million European Emissions Allowances - EUAs);
- Eesti Energia (5.3 million EUAs), and;
- Dalkia (4 million EUAs).
For ArcelorMittal, the world's largest steelmaker, "this huge surplus of 18.5 million allowances per year can help the company to face the surge in power prices that has occurred since the start of the EU cap-and-trade scheme," says the research firm.
With emission permits distributed free of charge during the initial phase of the scheme, this represents a potential handsome additional source of revenue for the companies concerned. Carbon prices for the 2008-2012 period are currently hovering around 20-25 euros per tonne.
Energy-intensive industries, including steel, heavy chemicals and cement, have repeatedly called for special treatment under the EU ETS in order to shield them from rising power costs. Without such treatment, they warned they could be tempted to move their factories to other parts of the world, putting the jobs of thousands of Europeans at risk.
As part of its plans to revise the EU ETS, the Commission has tabled a number of options to assuage industry concerns about rising power costs and prevent plant delocalisation. One of the options is to extend the system whereby CO2 pollution permits are distributed free of charge beyond 2012. The Commission said that it would review the situation in 2010 in light of the outcome of global climate talks.