UPDATE: House of Lords amendment (older coal fired stations) is defeated (4th December vote of the House of Commons).
An Emissions Performance Standard (EPS) is proposed to limit the amount of CO2 emitted by new fossil fuel power stations – this is a statutory limit set by the Energy Bill 2012 on the amount of annual CO2 emissions to be allowed from new fossil fuel generating stations. The limit is set at 450g/kWh until 2045. This document is an update on the technical details of the EPS.
The EPS does not apply to existing plant, which must in any event fit pollution clean-up equipment to meet tighter limits from January 2016. Under the European Industrial Emissions Directive (IED), plants that do not fit clean-up equipment will from January 2016 be subject to a 17,500 hour limit on their operation, after which they must close, or, from mid-2020 be limited to just 1,500 hours of operation a year.
The House of Lords had voted 4th November to give the Secretary of State the power to apply the emissions performance standard—EPS—to any existing fossil fuel power station upgrading to conform to the IED. The Energy Bill returned to the House of Commons, where MPs voted 318 to 236 (4th December) to overturn the amendment. The Government did not consider it necessary to grant itself this power.
Per the 4th December debate – “Let us be clear about what the amendment would do and what it would mean for coal plant. Coal plants operating in 2013 effectively have three choices. The first is to leave the plant as it is, without investment, in which case it would close some time before 2023, depending on how quickly it used the permitted hours of operation to which the Minister referred. The second is to upgrade in order to conform to the industrial emissions directive, as has been done at least once, at Ratcliffe-on-Soar, and as others are considering doing. The third is to upgrade more significantly to extend the lifetime and meet the IED stipulations.
The coal-fired power stations in the first category would be unaffected by the amendment. If they burned through their allowances quickly, operating at 55% load factor, they would still run until 2020, and because of the likely profitability of the capacity market being introduced, I suspect that many would choose to run at slightly lower load levels until 2023. The Government’s emissions performance standards, already in the Bill, will apply to the third category of plant—those that extend their lives through investment. The amendment would impact on the second group and take effect, effectively, from 2023.
The EPS limits on carbon emissions are expressed as the amount of CO2 per kWh, but they limit the amount produced not per hour but per year. A typical power station, therefore, would be limited to a 40% to 45% load factor without lowering its emissions rate. That means running at a low load factor, to manage peaks in demand or in winter, or becoming serious about CCS. Neither choice is the end of coal generation in the UK.
From the Minister’s remarks, it seems that the Government are not persuaded by the amendment for several reasons.”