New IPC controls on power station emissions

The Environment Agency has varied the integrated pollution control (IPC) authorisations for power stations in England and Wales. However, acid gas emissions will be much higher than the Government promised in its 1998 energy White Paper.1

The new controls on sulphur dioxide emissions, which will come into force on 1 October, were previewed by ENDS in January (ENDS Report 360, p 7 ). They provide a "transitional framework" until tougher emission limits under the EU Directive on large combustion plant bite in 2008. Controls on emissions of nitrogen oxides remain unchanged.

The overall limit on the generators' annual SO2 emissions will be reduced to 399,000 tonnes from the current level of 515,000 tonnes. However, the total permitted release could rise to as high as 414,400 tonnes if the Drax and Uskmouth stations can justify that higher limits would not compromise local air quality.

The figures contrast starkly with the Government's promise in its 1998 energy White Paper that SO2 emissions from power stations in England and Wales would fall to 365,000 tonnes by 2005 (ENDS Report 281, pp 30-32 ). The Agency has concluded that such a limit "presents an unacceptable risk to security of electricity supply, given the high recent demand from coal and oil-fired plants."

The Agency has distributed the basic 365,000-tonne limit between generators according to a flat rate of SO2 releases per unit of generation capacity.

To this it has added a "security of supply allowance" of 34,000 tonnes, most of which goes to International Power and E.ON.

The Agency says that these companies' Ironbridge and Rugely stations need additional allocations because of their role in stabilising the national grid, and "because their inland location makes access to low-sulphur coals more difficult."

The new arrangements will introduce a new SO2 emissions trading market, as the station-specific "B-limits" will now be fully transferable between operators. The Agency will establish a register of such transfers on its website.

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