The European Environment Agency has been looking at emissions of acidic pollutants nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulphur dioxide (SO2) from 450 of the continent’s biggest power stations.

The large combustion plants (LCP) include those which burn coal, gas or oil and their combined emissions account for almost three quarters of the total from this sector.

According to the EEA report, Air pollution from electricity generating large combustion plants applying best available techniques in 2004 at these plants could have cut NOx emissions by nearly 60% and S02 emissions by 80%.

Emissions could have been 20 % and 61 % lower respectively if the facilities had met the emission limits set in the LCP Directive – a piece of EU legislation which requires new power stations to meet less stringent standards and encourages the retro-fitting of older facilities.

As might be expected, the report focuses on environmental rather than economic considerations and largely ignores the main stumbling block cited by power generators – cost.

If the EU wishes to reduce emissions of these pollutants, however, it will need to grasp the nettle as electricity generation is responsible for over half (54%) of the bloc’s SO2 emissions.

Transport accounts for the lion’s share of NOx emissions but power stations are still responsible for a sizeable slice of the total, around 18%.

Sam Bond

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