Europe's worst polluters: much work to do

Despite some required improvements, Europe's dirtiest power plants still emit vast amounts of air pollutants. The "Dirty Dozen" are still big, and still dirty.

The European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR) has released its latest annual dataset, detailing the emissions of 91 pollutants by large industrial facilities across the EU27, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein in 2008. The figures show that many plants have substantially reduced their sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions from 2007, although a number of big polluters continue to dominate EU emissions. Emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) remain high.

The dataset is only the second to be released, following the entry into force of the Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers Protocol to the Aarhus Convention in 2007.

The observed reductions in SO2 and NOx emissions are required by the EU under the Large Combustion Plants (LCP) Directive. While EU legislation has addressed SO2 and NOx emissions from large plants since 1988, it was only under the 2001 LCP Directive that emission limits values were applied to existing plants. These stricter limits for SO2 from large existing plants entered into force on 1 January 2008, resulting in the improved performance of many plants. In the case of NOx the stricter emission limits for existing plants do not apply until 2016.

Overall, SO2 emissions from E-PRTR sources declined from approximately 6.15 million tonnes in 2007 to approximately 4.13 million tonnes in 2008. Emissions from the biggest twelve polluters showed a similar trend, dropping from approximately 1.86 to 1.34 million tonnes.

However, the "dirty dozen" remain big and dirty. Maritsa 2 in Bulgaria remained the highest SO2 emitter in 2008, achieving a six per cent reduction but still emitting 402,000 tonnes of SO2. This amounted to almost ten per cent of the 31 reporting countries' total annual emissions – all from a single source. Together, the SO2 "dirty dozen" emit almost one third of total annual emissions from E-PRTR sources.

NOx emissions recorded in the E-PRTR database have also decreased, with total emissions dropping from 3.72 to 2.81 million tonnes. The UK's Drax power station dropped to second place on the list after reducing NOx emissions by almost 30 per cent. In first place for 2008 was Poland's Belchatow plant, emitting 40,900 tonnes of NOx, an increase of almost four per cent on 2007.

Germany's coal-dominated electricity sector continues to dominate the list of the largest CO2 emitters, with seven of the twelve biggest emitters found there. Poland is the only other country to feature more than once on the list. It is home to the Belchatow plant, which has the dubious honour of emitting both the largest amount of NOx, and the largest amount of CO2.

  Plant Tonnes
1    Maritsa 2 (BG) 402,000
2 Megalopolis (EL)  210,000
Turceni (RO) 134,000
Galabavo (BG) 109,000
5 Patnow (PL)   86,600
Rovinari (RO) 83,400
Bobov Dol (BG) 69,500
Belchatow (PL) 61,300
9 Romag Termo (RO)  48,900
10  Agios Dimitrios (EL) 48,000
11  Narva (EE) 47,000
12  Maritsa 1 (BG) 42,000
  Plant  Tonnes
1    Belchatow (PL) 40,900
Drax (UK) 38,600
3   Drewsen Paper (DE) 30,800
4    Aberthaw (UK) 26,100
5    Agios Dimitrios (EL) 22,600
6    Compostilla (ES) 22,100
Kozeinice (PL) 21,800
8 Cottam (UK) 21,400
Andorra (ES) 20,200
10  Turceni (RO) 19,700
11    Jänschwalde (DE) 18,700
12 Varna (BG) 18,100
  Plant  Tonnes
1   Belchatow (PL) 30,900,000
2   Niederaussem (DE) 24,900,000
3   Jänschwalde (DE) 23,500,000
4   Drax (UK) 23,000,000
Eschweiler (DE) 21,600,000
6   Frimmersdorf (DE) 18,600,000
7    Neurath (DE) 18,000,000
8    Boxberg (DE) 15,400,000
Turow (PL) 12,900,000
10  Toulon incinerator (FR) 12,700,000
11  Schwarze Pumpe (DE) 12,500,000
12   Agios Dimitrios (EL) 11,800,000

Table: The "dirty dozen" facilities of the EU27 + 4 in 2008 for emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and carbon dioxide (CO2).

Paul Ferris

The E-PRTR register is accessible at:

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