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EU Threat To Aberthaw Power Station

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

GMB Congress Told EU “Moving Goalpost” On Emissions Is A Serious Threat To Aberthaw Power Station

If EU does not back off plant closure can be expected as soon as 2016 with severe impacts to the Welsh coal industry, RWE support staff and other large industrial units Congress told.

GMB Congress in Nottingham was told today (10th June) that the EU Commission is currently challenging the validity of the UK position on Aberthaw Power Station near Barry believing the derogation was for a station to fire exclusively less than 10% volatile coals.

Low volatile Welsh coal can be difficult to ignite although it contains more energy per unit volume.

The EU is now proposing that Aberthaw should comply with the non derogated limits as set for other coal plant which could lead to the closure of the station.

Ken Barker, GMB Regional Officer, said “GMB calls on European Commission to treat Aberthaw power station as a special case taking into account the devastating effect the closure of the power station would cause wider local economy not least the coal industry.

Aberthaw power station has a design, unique in the U.K., in order that it may burn typically low volatile Welsh coals.  The subsequent design of Aberthaw's boiler results in higher emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) than are emitted by other coal plants in the UK.  Aberthaw currently operates within an environmental permit which allows for these higher NOx emissions. 

During the negotiations of the Large Combustion Plant Directive (LCPD, 2001), the U.K. pushed hard for recognition of the higher NOx emissions resulting from power stations such as Aberthaw designed to fire these difficult-to-burn low volatile coals, and to acknowledge the wider environmental and economic benefits of utilising local coal sources.   This led to a proposal of a derogation by DEFRA and consequent inclusion of the derogation in the Directive for plants which can operate on coals of less than 10% volatile matter.  Aberthaw has operated within this 'low volatile fuel' derogation since the Directive came into force and has operated, and continues to operate, on coals of less than 10% volatile matter within part of its coal matrix.  Coals delivered to Aberthaw typically have volatile matter content in the range 6% to 15%.

The European Commission is currently challenging the validity of the UK position on Aberthaw, believing the derogation was for a station to fire exclusively below 10% volatile coals and is now proposing that Aberthaw should comply with the non derogated limits as set for other coal plant.  This has led to formal infraction proceedings being started against the UK Government, and to the recent rejection of the UK Transitional National Plan (TNP) option under the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED).  The Commission are seeking to do this by a retrospective and highly 'literalist' approach to interpreting the text of the Large Combustion Plant Directive.  This contrasts with the approach taken in the UK which has been to interpret and implement the purpose of the derogation.  The UK has previously reiterated to the European Commission that it considers that its treatment of Aberthaw is correct.

Futhermore, in order to maximise the options available for the station, in December they opted to be included in the Limited Life Derogation (LLD), with intention that once clarity was achieved regarding Capacity Market Payments (Q4, 2014), and of course if favourable,  would opt back out of the LLD before Dec 2015.  It has been made clear that a negative outcome from the infraction proceedings would also impact the LLD, and therefore potentially render the plant inoperable even under LLD.

So far the European Commission have failed to recognise the original technical and political intent of the low volatile derogation and remain committed to continuing the infraction proceedings against the UK.  The UK and Welsh governments have remained supportive throughout and are working to provide clarity for operation of Aberthaw in the interim.

The RWE investment programme (circa €40m), intended to reduce NOx emissions by at least 60%, and to allow continued operation of the plant to at least 2027, are at real risk of being compromised by the Commissions actions.  If the investments cannot be secured then plant closure can be expected as soon as 2016 with resultant severe impacts to the Welsh coal industry, RWE support staff and other large industrial units dependents on that industry, and overall significant negative impacts to the UK economy”.

End

Contact Ken Baker 07980 753111 or 02920 491260 or GMB press office 07921 289880 or 07974 251 823

 

 

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