Emissions targets delayed until 2019 to avoid energy crunch: Pressure from the British government and energy companies has encouraged the European Union to drop new regulations that could have led to the closure of Drax and other heavily polluting coal-fired power stations within six years.
The sector was facing tougher emissions targets but has been given an extra three years’ grace period to 2019 after Britain argued it faced an “energy crunch” before large-scale wind farms and nuclear stations came on stream closer to 2020.
The lifeline for up to half a dozen coal or gas-fired power facilities, which could lead to 60m tonnes of extra C02 being released into the atmosphere by Drax alone, has angered green groups but been welcomed by power providers.
The decision follows a vote on the industrial emissions directive in the European parliament’s committee on environment, public health and food safety in Brussels. This has to be endorsed by the parliament in July but is unlikely to be rejected.
Environmental groups had argued that the new regulations should be enforced as soon as possible to ensure that Britain and Europe met their climate change goals.
“Extending the life of these coal plants will slow down investment in the low-carbon economy, and set us back in the clean technology race,” said Ruth Davis, chief policy adviser at Greenpeace UK.
“Europe should take its lead from Spain, which is already generating half its electricity from wind power – not cling onto outdated technologies like dirty coal.”
While Kirsty Clough, a campaigner in the climate change team at WWF, said the successful lobbying by Britain sent “completely the wrong message” to Europe and the rest of the world about how serious Britain was about moving to a low carbon economy.
The government, large power companies and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) argued that energy generators need longer to comply with the directive to give them enough time to build other low-carbon energy sources to prevent a wider energy supply crunch.