UK expects to win reprieve on EU emissions plans

Lobbying by Britain looks set to have secured a key concession in EU plans to cut power station emissions due to be voted through the European Parliament this week.

The extra time will be much-needed breathing space as Britain struggles to avoid an "energy gap" as polluting coal-fired plants are closed down by existing EU rules on pollutants such as sulphur dioxide at the end of 2014.

After months of discussion, the European Parliament's Environment Committee is expected to agree to shift the deadline for the next stage of cuts from the end of 2015 to mid-2019.

The original plan for a 2015 deadline is part of the integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC) directive which will follow on from the large combustion plant directive (LCPD). But it was opposed strongly by the European Council of member states, which proposed a 2020 deadline to give generators more time to upgrade emissions reduction equipment.

Under the LCPD, power plants must cut emissions of proscribed gases by 94 per cent. Any unable to do so may run for a further 20,000 hours or until the end of 2014, and must then be scrapped. Some 10 gigawatts (GW) of Britain's generating capacity are due to be retired as a result.

The new IPPC directive increases the cap on noxious emissions to 96 per cent. But before the directive becomes law it must be agreed between the European Parliament and the Council of member states. And only once parliament has finalised its position this week can the compromise with the Council's 2020 deadline be negotiated.

Holger Krahmer, the MEP who is the rapporteur for the IPPC – charged with corralling an agreed position from the Parliament – is confident that the extension until June 2019 will be voted through tomorrow.

"The conclusion is a little bit speculative at this stage, but it is fairly certain that a big majority of the environment committee with vote for the [2019] compromise," said Mr Krahmer. "The most likely outcome is that the deadline will be extended by four years, although I regret it because I think the member states had enough time to invest."

The loudest calls for extra time from the European Council came from Britain. "The UK was the loudest and strongest lobbier," said Mr Krahmer. "The British pressure on this was very, very high."

The four-year extension will be of considerable benefit to electricity producers already reeling from the high cost of fitting desulphurisation equipment to meet the 94 per cent target, according to Ian Parrett, a market analyst at energy consultancy Inenco.

"The old timescale for the second phase wasn't really possible," said Mr Parrett. "The generators have already invested so much to get to the first target that it just wasn't economically realistic to upgrade all the equipment so soon."

But even with the hard-fought concessions – which could be signed into law as early as the summer – Britain's energy supplies over the middle of the decade will be tight. The first nuclear power stations are not scheduled to be up and running before 2017, even if the highly rigorous construction timetable is met without a hitch. And plans for massive increases in the amount of off-shore wind power are also both financially and logistically ambitious.

Sceptics warn that Britain may be forced to throw up gas-fired power stations, which are quicker and cheaper to build than either nuclear or renewable generation, leaving the country over-reliant on foreign suppliers, particularly Russia.

There are also questions about whether the planning process would enable replacements to be built in time, if at all. Scottish Power plans to convert its Cockenzie coal-fired power station to a new gas plant were vetoed by East Lothian Council last week, moved by complaints from local residents about the scheme's impact on nearby communities.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Guru Careers: Management Accountant

£27 - 35k + Bonus + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Management Accountant is needed ...

Guru Careers: Project Manager / Business Analyst

£40-50k + Benefits.: Guru Careers: A Project Manager / Business Analyst is nee...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'