69 per cent of the coal and lignite plants do not comply with the new NOx limits. Photo: Flickr.com / Lisa CC BY NC ND

One-third of existing coal capacity must retrofit or close

More than 100 coal-fired plants, representing one-third of the EU’s large-scale coal-fired power plant capacity, face costly air quality upgrades or closure as a result of the new EU emissions limits for large combustion plants, according to an analysis by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).

“The cost of compliance will be prohibitive for many of these installations, given the market outlook and other headwinds,” said co-author of the report Gerard Wynn. “Owners will either have to make significant investment and technical changes in just four years, or decide to close the plants altogether or significantly restrict their operating hours.”

The report found that 69 per cent of the nearly 600 large coal and lignite power plants covered by the analysis were exceeding the upper end (the least strict) of the new NOx limits, while 43 per cent of lignite and 61 per cent of coal-fired plants exceeded the upper end SO2 limits.

Efficient NOx abatement would, according to the report, add €2–4 per megawatt-hour of electricity generation and efficient SO2 abatement would add €6–7/MWh. This leads to the conclusion that “in the case of older power plants particularly, these costs are prohibitive, and that it would be more rational to close the installations.”

The IEEFA concluded that the new LCP BREF “are in line with, or less ambitious than corresponding emissions limits in China and the US”, and that stricter regulation is likely over time, reinforcing the case for older, more polluting coal plants to close now and cut their losses, rather than continue to retrofit.

Source: IEEFA press release, 8 May 2017.  
Report: ‘Europe’s coal-fired power plants: Rough times ahead’ (May 2017). By G. Wynn and P. Coghe. Published by IEEFA.



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