The International Institute for Law and the Environment, IIDMA, denounces that the plan granting large coal power plants in Spain to emit pollutants above the limits set by the European Union does not comply with the law and does not reflect the real situation.
In a statement it explains that, according to a European Directive, thermal power plants are eligible, through a Transitional National Plan (PNT for its acronym in Spanish), for an exemption that allows them to continue emitting until 2020 higher values of pollutants – including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate – than those established by said Directive.
Although it was accepted by the European Commission in March, in IIDMA´s view the PNT does not respect the Spanish law requiring the Council of Ministers´ approval once the European Commission approves the transitional national plan –worked-out by the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment. However, the Cabinet has not yet approved or published it in the Official Gazette, it warns.
Coal power plants in Spain
“Therefore, coal plants are operating in Spain under a plan that does not meet the legal requirements of our rule of law since January 2016, causing damage to our health and environmental damage,” says Ana Barreira, Director the International Institute for law and the Environment.
Furthermore she reports “the PNT has not been subjected to a strategic environmental assessment as required by both international, the European Union as our country law. Consequently, the plan has not been submitted to a process of public participation also required by that legislation. “
The current PNT comprises 30 facilities, 22 of which use coal as fuel. This plan not only allows the plants emit above the levels set by the European Union, but in addition it is not updated since it includes a plant that stopped working two months before the European Commission gave its approval to the plan. This raises permitted emissions for the rest of the plants included therein, the statement continues.
Damage to health and the environment
The plan is only one of several options that thermal power plants have at their disposal to continue emitting contaminants above levels established by the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) of the European Union, it reports. Among other options, it adds, the plants can also limit their working hours to 17,500 hours over the next eight years or, in the case of plants that are part of a smaller, isolated network, they can still emit above limits until 2019. “This despite the fact that emissions from coal fired power plants caused 1,530 premature deaths in 2013 in Spain, as reflected in the report” Lifting Europe’s Dark Cloud ” by EEB and others” IIDMA claims.
Today, combustion plants using coal account for only just over 10% of the total installed capacity in the country, but are responsible for 70% of the carbon dioxide emissions of the entire electricity producer sector, the statement says.
IIDMA says the government argues that coal power plants are necessary to maintain a margin of security for the grid. However, the International Institute for Law and Environment retorts that “this is not the case: the country´s current system has a surplus capacity of around 30%, which makes that eliminating coal would not entail any problems in the security of supply “.