UK parliament rejects coal-plant closure move

04 December 2013 16:58 Source:ICIS
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Politicians in the lower house of the UK parliament on Wednesday rejected an amendment to the country’s energy bill, which could have forced the closure of 15GW of coal-fired electricity plants earlier than initially thought.

The amendment, which was backed by the House of Lords in November ( see EDEM and CSD 5 November 2013 ), would have meant the emissions performance standard (EPS) would make closure dates for old coal-fired plants more certain. The EPS is a measure intended to cap levels of pollution from power plants, but does not apply to already operating plants seeking life extensions. In essence the EPS prevents new coal-fired plants from being built in the UK without technology such as carbon capture and storage.

Both energy regulator Ofgem and system operator National Grid have warned of an approaching capacity crunch in 2015-15, which might have made the amendment to the EPS politically unpalatable for the government ( see EDEM 22 November 2013 ).

Across the UK at least 12 coal-fired power plants totalling around 15GW of generation capacity fall outside of the EU’s large combustion plant directive (LCPD), which will force the closure of around 8GW of capacity by 2015.

The 12 plants have tightening air quality regulations in front of them under the EU industrial emission directive (IED), in effect an extension to the LCPD. The IED encompasses all remaining coal plants, which will affect their operation from 2016.

The IED offers plants a number of options, including opting out and closing by 2023, converting to burn biomass or refurbishing to meet emissions standards.

The House of Commons voted against the amendment by 318 to 236, which ends any chance of the amendment making it into the new energy bill. Manca Vitorino

By Manca Vitorino