Power plants in the EU will have to cut the amount of toxic pollutants such as nitrogen oxides they emit under new rules approved by a majority of member states.
Friday’s decision imposes stricter limits on emissions of pollutants such as nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide, mercury and particulate matter from large combustion plants in Europe.
The European Power Plant Suppliers Association (EPPSA) said they welcomed the move by the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) Article 75 Committee members on the Best Available Techniques Reference Document for Large Combustion Plants (LCP BREF).
Large combustion plants account for a big share of air pollutant emissions across the EU and it is estimated that the new rules could save more than 20,000 lives every year by reducing pollution from coal-fired power plants alone.
The EU’s industrial emissions directive has been criticized for exemptions which have allowed more than half of Europe’s coal plants to exceed limits for harmful pollutants, up to now.
Several countries which are heavily reliant on coal, such as Poland, Bulgaria, Germany and the Czech Republic, were opposed to the changes.
Bulgaria recently expressed concerns to Brussels that their power plants would be forced to close down or that electricity prices would go up, but the Commission had told Power Engineering International, “European law does not require the closure of Bulgarian plants and will not increase the price of electricity.”
National authorities will be able to use a derogation, or form of exemption, when costs would be disproportionate compared with the environmental benefits, while respecting environmental safeguards.
The stricter limits will apply to all 2,900 large combustion plants in the EU – including coal-fired power stations and peat, oil and gas power plants – and will have to be met by 2021.
During the process, EPPSA has supported the integration of minimum efficiency requirements for the retrofit of the least efficient plants and shared information on European state-of-the-art technologies on flue gas cleaning and generation technologies, leading to important benefits for the environment. EPPSA is fully aware that some existing power plants in Europe will find it challenging to reach all the defined emission levels. In such cases, the exceptions from the IED may apply.
In its statement EPPSA also said it believes that for most of the existing LCPs, the implementation of the conclusions are economically and technically feasible through the state-of-the-art technologies currently available in the market.