• EU court rules U.K. failed to correctly apply pollution limits
  • Utility plans to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions further

RWE AG will accommodate changes to the way emissions are regulated at its Aberthaw coal-fed power station in Wales after the EU Court of Justice ruled that the company broke pollution limits.

The EU court ruled Wednesday that the U.K. government failed to correctly apply emission limits applicable to large fossil fuel-fired plants and that RWE had not used enough locally-sourced coal to exempt it from the rules. About 60 percent of the coal burned at Aberthaw is Welsh, according to the company.

RWE has already reduced the amount of nitrogen oxides it emits at Aberthaw with new boiler technology at one unit, according to a statement. It plans to modify the plant to enable it to burn lower-emitting international coal, which will cut emissions of the gases by a further 30 percent.

“We believe that with plant efficiencies, modifications, and changes to our operating regime, the station can continue to support security of supply into the 2020s,” Richard Little, station manager at Aberthaw, said.

After an inquiry that began in May 2012, the European Commission found that Aberthaw wasn’t complying with EU rules and referred the U.K. government to the Luxembourg-based EU court. The court ruling today cannot be appealed.

Unusual Design

“The U.K. argued EU legislation applied a different emission limit to Aberthaw to reflect its unusual design, which was linked to its local Welsh coal supplies,” according to a Welsh government spokesperson. “The operator’s investment in Aberthaw has already reduced its emissions and further investments are being made to deliver additional reductions over the remaining life of the station during the transition to lower carbon energy generation.”

Coal plant profitability has dropped 78 percent since this time last year, even dropping below zero in the six months to September, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The U.K. plans to phase out coal stations from 2023.

RWE said earlier this year that Aberthaw would operate less frequently from April, making itself available to operate in times of “system stress” or at the request of network operator National Grid Plc.

RWE’s plan for the operation of Aberthaw this winter hasn’t changed as a result of the ECJ ruling, said Kelly Nye, a company spokeswoman.

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