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Cold Feet: EU Plans State Subsidies For Coal Power Plants

The European Union is fine-tuning plans to allow millions of euros of state subsidies for new coal-fired power plants, a policy that campaigners say undermines EU environmental ambitions.

For four years from January 2013, EU governments can provide up to 15 percent of the cost of new coal-fired plants, provided they have the potential to retrofit carbon-trapping technology some time in the future, a leaked EU document shows. A European Commission spokesman said the EC was discussing the issue internally, but he declined to comment further.

The move comes amid high tensions over coal’s climate impact, with the United States and Britain threatening to withhold support for a $3.75 billion World Bank loan for a coal-fired power plant in South Africa.

To qualify for aid, the European plants would have to be capable of retrofitting carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, a cutting-edge technique to trap carbon dioxide emissions and lock them in underground caverns.

But the costly infrastructure does not have to be built. The plants must merely be “CCS ready”.

“CCS ready means that … suitable storage sites are available and set aside; transport facilities are technically and economically feasible and it is technically and economically feasible to retrofit for CO2 capture,” reads the document, seen by Reuters on Thursday.

Campaigners say in practice that might mean nothing more than having an empty field alongside the plant, as the rules imply no legal commitment.

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