Carbon limit proposed for large power plants

Binding emission standards for all large plants - new and existing - could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector by two thirds.

A carbon dioxide emission limit for power plants should apply to both new and existing installations if it is to have a significant impact on reducing emissions by 2030, according to a study published by environmental consultants Ecofys.

Introducing binding emission performance standards (EPS) for all large power stations in the EU on a staged basis between 2010 to 2020, could reduce the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 by more than two-thirds – or more than 800 million tonnes per year – in 2020, according to environmental organisation WWF, one of the sponsors of the study.

“The current EU emissions trading scheme unfortunately does not prevent high polluting coal-fired power stations from being built,” said Stephan Singer, director of WWF’s Global Energy Programme. “We need new emissions limits to ensure Europe invests only in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and CO2 capture and storage facilities for coal-fired power stations. Otherwise, Europe will fail to deliver its contribution to keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.”

A CO2 emissions performance standard is a limit on emissions per unit of energy output. With such a limit, new power plants that cannot meet the standard would not be built and existing power plants that do not plan to upgrade pollution controls or implement equivalent measures would close down. Utilities will have clear incentives to invest in energy efficiency measures, equip their new plants or retrofit the existing ones with CO2 capture and storage or switch to renewable sources of energy.

The study shows that an EPS needs to be phased in for both new and existing plants. Imposing a very demanding limit of 150 grams CO2/kWh just on new plants from 2010 would deliver reductions of 10 per cent of power sector greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, while a staged introduction of a less stringent standard at 350 grams CO2/kWh for new plants from 2010, extended to existing plants by 2015, could save up to 46 per cent of power sector emissions by 2020.

The Environment Committee of the European Parliament supported a proposal to include a binding EPS for CO2 emissions from power plants last October, as part of legislative proposals for an EU framework for carbon capture and storage (CCS), but the proposal was rejected by EU governments.

More recently, some MEPs in the parliament’s environment committee proposed to introduce such a standard for large new power plants in connection with the ongoing revision of the EU’s 1996 integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC) directive.

The report Scenarios on the Introduction of CO2 Emission Performance Standards for the EU Power Sector can be downloaded from:

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