EU plan could lead to power blackouts, say electricity generators

Energy providers have begun a fierce lobbying campaign against new plans by the European Commission to clamp down on industrial pollution, saying they could cause the premature closure of a quarter of Britain's electricity generation capacity and leave the country struggling to keep its lights on.

David Porter, the head of the Association of Electricity Producers (AEP), has written to the Business Secretary, John Hutton, to argue against the imposition of the EU Industrial Emissions Directive (IED), which tightens existing limits on emissions of oxides of sulphur and nitrogen.

Mr Porter claimed the directive threatened the future of coal-fired power stations and could create an unbridgeable "generation gap" in the UK, which is already struggling to bring new generation on line to replace plants slated for decommissioning.

He claimed that to comply with the new emissions limits, proposed earlier this year, would cost the industry £2.8bn, and that suppliers who could not recover the cost of installing the required equipment would have to close.

"This is a scary example of bad regulation," Mr Porter said. "Something that looks appealing to a bureaucrat threatens to have huge unintended consequences. Piling regulation upon regulation so quickly also shows a lack of understanding of business and investment. We are talking to government and looking urgently for a sensible outcome."

The AEP has also taken its case to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and has begun lobbying the European Parliament via the European trade body Eurelectric. The directive aims to incorporate six existing environmental directives into one piece of legislation. In its current form, it would remove the flexibility written into the current regime as set out under the Large Combustion Plants Directive (LCPD), which took effect on 1 January this year and runs until 2020.

Companies have invested billions in recent years, based on the LCPD parameters, which are taking effect in two stages. Since 1 January, coal-fired power stations have had to use "flue gas desulphurisation" technology to reduce sulphur emissions. The second stage kicks in on 1 January 2016, when stations will need to be equipped with selective catalytic reduction technology to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution.

Under the LCPD, the targets are flexible and plants can be phased out gradually, reduced to being used at times of maximum demand as "peaking plants" all the way out to 2020, even if they are not fitted with the required kit.

The IED removes all flexibility: either install the pricey NOx reduction kit or shut down by 31 December 2015, the day before the IED would come into effect. "This would definitely have implications," said a spokeswoman for Drax, operator of the country's largest coal-fired plant.

The first reading of the directive in Brussels, set for later this year, comes against the backdrop of an impending drop-off in UK electricity generation capacity. As a result of the LCPD, six of the UK's 18 coal-fired power plants "opted out" of the required upgrades due to the cost and age of their plants. Three oil-fired plants did as well. These plants, representing about 13 gigawatts, or 15 per cent of UK capacity, now have 20,000 hours of operation – equal to about two-and-a-half years of normal operation – before they must shut down.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Collections Agent

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40k: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 busi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 ...

Reach Volunteering: Trustees with Finance, Fundraising and IT skills

Voluntary and unpaid, reasonable expenses reimbursable: Reach Volunteering: St...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent