Saturday, January 24, 2009

British government trying to water down European emissions law

The UK government is lobbying to water down proposed EU legislation to impose tough new emission limits on power plants in order to guarantee Britain's energy security and keep down electricity prices. Whitehall is warning, according a briefing document leaked to green campaigners and seen by the Guardian, that electricity prices would increase by 20% if the proposed legislation isn't changed. It is also concerned that the new rules would threaten the security of the UK's electricity supply.

The proposed European directive would pose a serious threat to the construction of the Kingsnorth power station in Kent - the UK's first new coal plant for three decades. Campaigners accuse ministers of "planning for failure" by seeking to expand coal generation capacity and keep "dirty" coal stations open when they should instead focus on hitting renewable energy and efficiency targets. Coming just days after the decision to expand Heathrow by adding a third runway, they see it as the latest example of the government not living up to its rhetoric on climate change (see panel).

Tomorrow the environment committee of the European Parliament will vote on more than 500 amendments tabled to the proposed new legislation - the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) directive.

The proposed IPPC directive incorporates changes to current legislation such as the large combustion plant legislation (LCPD) and lays out tighter limits, for example on sulphur dioxide emissions. The 4-page leaked Whitehall paper is a briefing note prepared for MEPs. It says that the LCPD directive "raises potentially serious issues about security of electricity supply" and could even damage "moves to low-carbon electricity generation".

Current EU laws allow power stations that are not fitted with equipment to remove sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide to operate for a limited period each day, but only until 2015. This affects around a seventh (10.5GW) of Britain's electricity generation capacity. Whitehall says that up to a further 8GW of generating capacity may close if the proposed tougher rules in the IPPC directive are applied - meaning that in 2015 around a quarter of capacity would shut at the same time. According to the document this would reduce the margin for error at times of high power demand. "With projected new investments, electricity capacity margins (spare capacity to meet exceptionally cold winters or temporary plant shutdowns) are projected to fall from around 10% to around 7% from the beginning of 2016 and remain depressed for some three years after," the paper says.

It adds: "That period of reduced security margin will be reflected in electricity price increases of some 20% above those which are predicted in the absence of the proposed [Large Combustion Plant] provisions." The paper sounds a drastic warning that it may prove impossible to build and operate replacement plant by the end of 2015, saying this would "exacerbate the risks and shortfalls" outlined.

"Moreover, since investment decisions and design need to be completed within the next two years to meet a 2016 deadline, such plant is therefore almost certain to be built using currently commercialised technologies which, of course, do not currently include carbon capture and storage (CCS)," says the document, which is entitled "UK Concerns on the Proposed Recast Industrial Emissions (IPPC) Directives Provisions Concerning Large Combustion Plants.

The government is calling for greater flexibility to be introduced into the proposed IPPC directive, which covers some 500 power plants across Europe, so that UK electricity and gas supplies are not threatened. It has won some backing from other EU countries which would like the new law to take effect from 2020.



Economy Minister Michael Glos continuous to have serious misgivings about the EU decisions on emissions trading to combat climate change from 2013. On Thursday, the CSU-politician joined the call by his scientific advisory board to radically transform the emissions trading system. In its report, the scientific advisory board urged to repeal strict limits for CO2 emissions.

Instead, emissions allowances should be allocated on a flexible basis and a corridor for price controls introduced. Glos said: "I welcome the proposal to set prices for the period from 2013 through the flexible issuing of certificates in a stabel price range." The background for the concerns is that the rules adopted by the EU in December for emissions trading could result in sharp price swings of emissions permits.

Glos said the fear of price uncertainty could discourage investments. "In addition, the current scheme would cost us valuable jobs if they move abroad as a result." Glos regretted that the recommendations of the scientific advisory board had not been taken into consideration by the EU.

SOURCE. [transl. BJP]


Funding freeze halts environmental projects across California

Commissions and nonprofits charged with conserving parks, wildlife, water and mountain areas of the state are at risk of laying off staff or closing since the state stopped funding last month. The money freeze has immobilized construction of new biking trails along the Santa Ana River in San Bernardino and Orange counties. It has stopped plans to tear down the Matilija Dam in Ventura County and restore the sediment-filled Matilija reservoir. It has impeded efforts to boost the populations of salmon and steelhead trout off the coast of Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

The halting of such projects is one of the most concrete results of California's cash crunch. Last month the state's top financial officials froze all state projects that rely on borrowed money. The funds for the environmental projects come mostly from four bond measures approved by voters since 2000. In all, more than 750 environmental projects in Los Angeles County and the four surrounding counties have had their funding, totaling $420 million, stopped, according to an analysis of state records.

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