Greenpeace casts doubt over PGE’s Opole expansion plans
Polish utility PGE's expansion plans for its Opole plant could flop if it fails to conduct a carbon capture and storage (CCS) readiness assessment, Greenpeace has told ICIS.
Despite an ongoing legal dispute with environmental NGO ClientEarth, PGE has announced that it will continue the investment process to build two new 900MW coal-fired units.
But Greenpeace EU climate policy director Joris den Blanken has said the company risks being denied a building permit should it continue to defy EU regulations (see EDCM 2 October 2012).
"The decision on Opole has been sent from the supreme court back to the local court, which gives PGE the opportunity to request a building permit.
However, it would also need clearance from a regional court, and perhaps a higher court," said den Blanken.
"You need an environmental permit to build a new plant. This is the EU and PGE have to respect that."
ClientEarth objected to the Polish utility's decision against conducting a CCS assessment, as part of the environmental impact assessment for the Opole expansion, as this has been a legal requirement for building new power plants in the EU since 2009.
A CCS assessment is to minimise the risk of lock-in to long-lived, high carbon infrastructure by planning for the feasibility of retrofitting CCS in future.
While installing CCS technology is not a legal requirement now, it may become one in 2015 when the issue will be reviewed by the EU. Presently, all utilities in the EU building a new plant must demonstrate that it is technically ready to apply CCS.
Poland, however, has yet to transpose the CCS directive.
While the Ministry of Treasury told ICIS that "there are no formal obstacles to begin the construction of Elektrownia Opole power station on the basis of viable environmental decisions, building permits, and the contract with the contractor", Greenpeace stressed that PGE runs the risk of sanctions at EU level.
Den Blanken added that he did not know why PGE has not conducted the assessment. "It would save them a lot of trouble. In all EU countries you need an environmental permit before you can construct a power plant. It will be difficult to move forward without one."
"It is important to note that the cost of the assessment relative to the overall investment is marginal," said ClientEarth programme director Karla Hill, who also commented that she was not sure why the assessment was omitted.
When ICIS asked PGE why it had not conduct the CCS assessment, and if it had plans to do so in future, it declined to comment.
Instead, PGE has said in a statement that "the new units to be erected in Opole will meet the strictest EU environment protection standards" to be more efficient and cut emissions.
According to ClientEarth, however, the environmental impact assessment report shows that the annual CO2 emissions of the two new units at Opole Power Plant will exceed 9m tonnes.
"There is no getting around the fact that coal power is a high-carbon source of electricity and generates high levels of emissions," said Hill. "Emissions levels may be lower relative to old existing coal power stations but that does not equate to low emissions levels." KM
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