EU fails on climate change - drops energy regulations that could have shut Drax coal fired power station

8/5/2010 Guardian Pressure from the British government and energy companies has encouraged the European Union to drop new regulations that could have led to the closure of Drax and other heavily polluting coal-fired power stations within six years.The sector was facing tougher emissions targets but has been given an extra
three years’ grace period to 2019 after Britain argued it faced an “energy
crunch” before large-scale wind farms and nuclear stations came on stream closer
to 2020.
The lifeline for up to half a dozen coal or gas-fired power facilities, which
could lead to 60m tonnes of extra C02 being released into the atmosphere by Drax
alone, has angered green groups but been welcomed by power providers.
The decision follows a vote on the industrial emissions directive in the
European parliament’s committee on environment, public health and food safety in
Brussels. This has to be endorsed by the parliament in July but is unlikely to
be rejected.
Environmental groups had argued that the new regulations should be enforced as
soon as possible to ensure that Britain and Europe met their climate change
“Extending the life of these coal plants will slow down investment in the
low-carbon economy, and set us back in the clean technology race,” said Ruth
Davis, chief policy adviser at Greenpeace UK.
“Europe should take its lead from Spain, which is already generating half its
electricity from wind power – not cling onto outdated technologies like dirty
While Kirsty Clough, a campaigner in the climate change team at WWF, said the
successful lobbying by Britain sent “completely the wrong message” to Europe and
the rest of the world about how serious Britain was about moving to a low carbon
The government, large power companies and the Confederation of British Industry
(CBI) argued that energy generators need longer to comply with the directive to
give them enough time to build other low-carbon energy sources to prevent a
wider energy supply crunch.
“There is a risk that the UK will not be able to build other low-carbon energy
sources in time to replace lost capacity,” said Sean McGuire, director of CBI
Brussels. “A phased introduction for this directive would allow the UK to make a
smoother transition to a more balanced energy mix. The committee’s proposal to
extend the timescale for power plants to comply with the industrial emissions
directive from 2016 to 2019 is helpful, but it still does not go far enough.”
The decision does not impact on the EU’s large combustion plant directive (LCPD)
under which all coal and oil-fired power stations not equipped with flue gas
desulphurisation to remove harmful sulphur dioxide emissions will need to close
by 2015. Companies such as E.ON have decided it is not economic to fit this at
Kingsnorth, Ironbridge or Grain coal-fired power stations so they will close as
expected in five years time.
The issue under discussion is the restriction that will require mainly large
coal-fired power stations to reduce emissions of nitrogen. Operators have to
decide whether to fit new clean-up equipment called selective catalytic
reduction (SCR), or accept that their power station can only run for limited
time and then must close.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change said it was not right to comment at
this stage because no final decision had yet been made at the EU but it
confirmed it had been lobbying hard.
“Government is engaging at all levels with officials and elected representatives
in Brussels, with member states and with industry to work towards an agreement
which is acceptable to the UK,” said a DECC spokeswoman.
A spokeswoman for Drax said the issue was very important for its future: “To
meet the new limits [on nitrogen emissions] would mean huge investments and
given other uncertainties after 2020 it would be an incredibly difficult
decision to make ahead of 2016.”

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