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EU industrial air pollution rules herald 'logical end for coal plants'

Plants larger than 50MW will have four years to adapt to meet new stricter standards for air pollutants, as lawyers warn they will sue sites that fail to comply

Large coal power plants across Europe will have four years to adapt their systems to meet stricter air pollution limits or face having to close down altogether under new rules adopted by the European Commission on Monday. Campaigners and green groups hailed the standards as signalling the "logical end for coal plants" across Europe, as policymakers continue to crackdown on the continent's most carbon intensive sites.

They estimate the updated Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) will prevent around 20,000 premature deaths a year by imposing stricter limits on nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, mercury, and particulate matter that will have to be met by 2021. The measures will apply to all coal-fired power stations with a capacity output greater than 50MW, as well as peat, oil, gas, and other power plants and offshore rigs.

Under the IED, large industrial facilities have an obligation to operate in accordance with their environmental permits, which must be based on the application of industry-wide Best Available Techniques (BAT) that achieve the highest level of technically-viable environmental protection.

Welcoming the new standards, the European Environment Bureau (EEB) said ensuring large power plants use the Best Available Techniques to reduce pollution would lead to significant reductions in emissions while improving air quality across Europe's cities and regions.

The coalition of European green groups claimed 82 per cent of coal capacity expected to come online in 2021 was currently failing to meet the new minimum standards, and that EU-wide compliance with the new BAT rules could therefore cost operators as much as EUR15.4bn overall, further undermining the economic case for coal power.  Power plants for which it would not be economically viable to invest in adapting their systems to reach BAT compliance could be forced to close down altogether, it claimed.

Large combustion plants such as power stations and district heating facilities are estimated to account for around a third of overall air pollution emissions from EU industry, according to the Commission, while air pollution is estimated to be responsible for more than 400,000 premature deaths in the EU each year. 

Darek Urbaniak, senior energy policy officer at WWF's European Policy Office, hailed the new BAT rules as a "big step towards a zero-coal Europe" as well as cleaner air and lower carbon emissions. "EU Member States must get straight to work to put these new rules into practise, and bring the dirtiest coal plants off line completely," he added.

Source: Business Green


Päivitetty/Updated: 01.08.2017

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