One of the UK’s Big Six utilities EDF Energy plans to keep at least 3GW of coal-fired power generation capacity online under the EU’s industrial emissions directive (IED), by entering into a transitional plan established by the government.
A final decision on the future of the plants t is expected within two years, the company said on Wednesday.
EDF’s announcement follows the news earlier this month that another Big Six energy company, RWE npower, had provisionally nominated seven of its UK electricity plants with about 3GW capacity to opt out of the IED and close down by December 2023 ( see EDEM 9 January 2014 ).
The UK has 20GW of generating capacity that is subject to the IED.
EDF Energy’s plants meets existing limits on emissions, but to comply with more stringent measures imposed under the IED from 2016, the company will have to fit the plants with new technology to cut emissions.
It will, over the next two years, analyse whether profit margins for the plants would be enough to justify this investment.
If the company decides the investment is too expensive, EU legislation still gives it the right to keep the plants online for a limited period of time, under the limited life derogation (LLD). This means they can run without modification for a further 17,500 hours or to the end of December 2023, whichever is the earlier.
The IED, an extension of the existing large combustion plant directive, comes into effect in 2016 and will require existing coal-fired power plants to comply with new emissions limits.
EDF intends to enter its 2GW Cottam power station and at least one of its two 1GW West Burton A plants – EU regulations classify West Burton A as two plants and Cottam Power Station one plant – into the IED through the UK’s transitional national plan (TNP).
This will require the plants, which generated 23TWh of electricity in 2013, to be fitted with new technology to reduce their emissions further.
On Wednesday, a spokesman for EDF said the company’s preferred option was to enter the TNP, with the LLD a fall-back option. “The decision to enter the LLD is fully rescindable. It is our current intention to take both Cottam power station and one of the two West Burton A plants out of the LLD and put them into the TNP,” the spokesman said.
The TNP will allow plants exemption from IED emissions limits until June 2020, although they will be forced to operate within an emissions ceiling specific to each plant.
This in effect buys some breathing space, for generators to comply gradually with the IED, as opposed to a more stringent cut-off point.
Defra said generators choosing the LLD option have until the end of 2015 to enter the TNP or fully comply with the IED.
EDF said in a statement it will continue to explore options to address the commercial, technical, environmental and regulatory challenges that legislation presents for existing coal powers stations after 2016. Henry Evans