Ambitious emission limits for power plants would result in significant pollution cuts in the EU
European Union (EU) Member States have an opportunity to set ambitious limits for pollutant emissions from power plants. According to a new European Environment Agency (EEA) analysis setting strict but realistic emission limits for the power sector could cut emissions of key pollutants by 79-91 % by 2030. These limits are in line with EU law that establishes a flexible range of requirements, from minimum to more ambitious targets.
The EEA briefing 'Greening the power sector: benefits of an ambitious implementation of Europe’s environment and climate policies' looks at the potential benefits of an ambitious implementation of new measures under the Industrial Emissions Directive in the EU power sector. These new measures set a range of emission limits that Member States must use for emissions permits issued to power plant operators by 2021. The upper limits represent a minimum Member States must do while the lower limits are a reference for more ambitious targets.
According to the EEA analysis, implementing the upper emission limits of the new requirements would, by 2030, result in emission cuts of 66 % for sulphur dioxide (SO2), 56 % for particulate matter and 51 % for nitrogen oxides (NOx), compared with 2016 emissions. However, in the same period, implementing the more ambitious targets would result in more substantial emission reductions of 91 % for SO2, 82 % for particulate matter and 79 % for NOx.
The additional NOx emission reductions associated with achieving to the more ambitious level of implementation are, for 2030 alone, comparable to the lifetime NOx emissions of 220 000 modern (average Euro 6) diesel cars on European roads (assuming a lifetime mileage of 150 000 km). According to analysis on the so-called Best Available Techniques, the more ambitious limits are, in the majority of cases, technically and economically achievable.
Power plants burning fossil fuels still generate almost half of the electricity in the EU-28. These combustion plants release more than half of the total man-made SO2, 15 % of NOxand 4 % of particulate matter as well as other pollutants, such as mercury. Emissions of SO2and dust from power plants have decreased by more than three quarters since 2004, largely because of environmental regulation, the briefing notes.
The new requirements regarding SO2, NOx and particulate matter emissions from power plants were adopted in 2017 and need to be implemented by Member State authorities already now for new plants and by 2021 at the latest for existing plants.
Image: Patrick Hendry