Business lobby group the CBI has warned that a new European Directive could force the UK to close up to 14 power plants, potentially putting energy security at risk.
Recent amendments by MEPs to the draft EU Industrial Emissions Directive mean that power plants will need to undergo costly upgrades to comply with air pollution targets or close by 2016.
The CBI is calling for power plants to be given until 2021 to prepare for the proposed changes, which will allow other low-carbon forms of energy to be built to replace the lost capacity and ensure a smooth transition.
“Businesses want to help cut air pollution, but this Directive must be implemented in a way that doesn’t undermine the UK’s energy security,” said CBI deputy director general John Cridland.
“The timescales currently proposed by some MEPs are unrealistic and could lead to up to 14 UK power plants having to shut prematurely. Given that these plants are old and due to close in the 2020s, letting them run their course would allow for a smooth transition to new low-carbon energy sources and avoid creating a serious energy gap.
“The majority of EU member states want a phased introduction for this Directive and it is vital that the new UK Government makes protecting our energy security one of its top priorities.
“In the longer-term, the UK needs to develop a broad energy mix that includes new nuclear plants, clean coal, gas, wind and other renewable sources.”
The Directive will be subject to a vote in Brussles on Tuesday 4 May but may still be negotiated on up to an EU plenary session in Strasbourg in the summer.
The CBI is also lobbying to have a second part of the Directive, which limits approaches to deal with air pollution targets.
“The current system of monitoring industrial emissions with the UK’s Environment Agency and individual plants works well, and should remain the basis for complying with the Directive,” said CBI Brussels director Sean McGuire.
“We need a system that retains flexibility and is risk-based to take account of local environmental conditions and individual business investment cycles.
“If implemented in its current form, these factors wouldn’t be taken into account and firms would be subjected to an arbitrary one-size-fits-all European approach.”