Tuesday, 23 March 2010


The government is asking the EU to relax the anti-pollution requirements it imposes on coal power stations. From the end of 2015 it is said that a number will close because it won't be economic to install the anti-NOx equipment.

"We need to keep the lights on," says the Government. "We need to allow these polluting plants to operate for up to 8 years longer at peak times, especially when the wind isn't blowing." It has persuaded the EU Council of Ministers to back a UK opt-out.

I've gone along with this argument. Maybe it's better, I have said, to keep old power stations for a few years longer than replace them with new ones before they can be equipped with carbon capture tecnology.

But the environmentalists say "you're wrong." And so do the operators of Drax, the biggest coal power station in Britain and Europe.

I think the government and I have been a sucker to lobbying by EoN and RWE. They have invested in their plants in Germany to ensure they comply with the anti-pollution laws but they are trying to get out of doing the same work here - even though 50,000 people a year are said to die prematurely from air pollution that includes nitrogen oxide from power plants.

The current low carbon price is bad news because it discourages investment in new low carbon technologies, but it's good news for operators of coal power stations. They are making lots of money from capital equipment which they claim is time-expired.

My German colleague, Holger Krahmer, is taking the Industrial Emissions Directive through the Parliament, and he is opposing the UK opt out.

I'm reversing my position and joining him. If RWE and EoN want to make money, then let them clean up the polluting power stations.

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