EU medium plant emissions rules edge closer

Draft plans to set nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide emission limits for medium-sized combustion plants in the European Union have come closer to reality after being informally agreed by MEPs and the Latvian Presidency of the European Council.

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Rules which would limit NOx and sulphur dioxide emissions from medium combustion plants in the EU have edged closer to reality

The legislation — which covers approximately 143,000 medium combustion plants in the EU with a thermal input rated between 1 and 50MW — has already been agreed by the European Parliament’s environment committee (see story), and will soon start progressing through the European Council’s approval process.

The EU describes medium combustion plants as “an important source of SO2, NOx and dust emissions”, but such facilities — which include electricity generators or heating systems for domestic, residential or industrial use — are currently unregulated.

But, last week (June 30), an informal agreement was reached by MEPs and the Council Presidency after “complex negotiations”, during which it was agreed that the legislation should not prevent Member States from enforcing tougher standards than required by the Directive.

Furthermore, it has been agreed that national authorities should be required to assess whether to introduce stricter limits in areas which are not complying with EU air quality standards.

As originally proposed by the European Commission, the maximum emission values, listed in annexes, of sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and dust from existing combustion plants with a thermal input above 5MW, would come into force from 2025.

The smallest plants, with a thermal input from 1 to 5 MW, which are usually operated by SMEs, will have to comply with emission limit values from 2030.

The agreed text and legislation will now go before the European Council’s committee of permanent representatives (COREPER). If endorsed by Coreper, it will then be put to a vote in the Parliament’s Environment Committee ‘at a forthcoming session’.

Rapporteur for the legislation, Poland Christian Democrat MEP Andrzej Grzyb (EPP, PL), who is steering the legislation through parliament, said:

“The negotiations were very complex, as the directive itself is very technical. Finally, I think that we have found a balanced approach between the environmental impact of the directive on the one hand and reducing the burden on operators, mostly SMEs, on the other.”

He added: “I hope that Coreper will confirm the outcome, and that we will secure a substantial majority for the report in the committee.”

Emissions from small combustion plants can be covered by EU eco-design legislation, while large combustion plants are covered by the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED), which is also currently the subject of ongoing negotiations at EU level to update the legislation (see story).


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