EC funds Matra lignite generation decarbonization project in Hungary

• Funds part of LIFE climate program
• Mix of renewables, storage and gas
• Goal to cut 6.5 million mt CO2/year

The European Commission has announced funding for the gradual phase-out of lignite generation at the Matra power plant in Hungary as part of its LIFE Environment and Climate Action program. The project is one of several announced Feb. 17, to be backed by total investment of Eur121 million ($145.59 million) for new integrated projects under the program. “Gradual phasing-out of lignite (brown coal) plays a key role in Hungary’s National Energy and Climate Plan,” the EC said.

Mátra is Hungary’s last remaining lignite-fired power plant but accounts for nearly 50% of the country’s energy sector CO2 emissions. The goal of the project is to decarbonize the plant by 2030, via a mix of renewable energy, energy storage and natural gas technologies, and close two associated open-cast lignite mines by the same date.

“The project will catalyze the replacement of 884 MW of lignite-fired capacity by developing, testing and evaluating innovative prototypes, and the preparation for large low-carbon energy generation technologies, to support the expansion of renewable energy technologies,” the EC said. It would develop prototype solutions for the lignite mining sites that could be replicated across Hungary, the EC said. The phase-out would reduce Hungary’s greenhouse gas emissions by 14%, or around 6.5 million mt of CO2 per year, it said.

Hungary’s National Energy and Climate Plan, adopted by the government on Jan. 8, 2020, aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, and increase the share of renewables to 20% in the generation mix.

Other projects selected for support under the LIFE program included implementation in the Malopolska region in Poland of a regional action plan for climate and energy, and restoration in Ireland of around 10,000 hectares of peatlands with high carbon storage potential.

Ireland’s last peat-fired power plant at Lanesborough was closed at the end of 2020. State peat company Bord na Mona formally ended all peak harvesting in January, and has launched a Eur115 million peatland restoration plan, which it says can secure and store over 100 million mt of CO2.