A close colleague asked me just before Easter if I was looking forward to the world of environmental policy and regulation quietening down in the period before the General Election. If only that were possible!
The fact is, the vast majority of environmental legislation is driven by the EU machinery in Brussels and that is revving up having had its own pitstop last year to allow for European elections and the formation of a new European Commission. One of the key environmental elements for the operation of power stations in the future made an appearance on Maundy Thursday; it rejoices in the name of the Large Combustion Plant Best Available Techniques Reference Document (or LCP BREF to those of us who have to say it a lot). The LCP BREF is about 800 pages of guidance (only 100 pages of conclusions) to environmental regulators like the Environment Agency, who must follow it when writing permits for power stations that burn fossil fuels and biomass to make electricity. Some of the limits on performance in the latest version of the BREF will be beyond the capabilities of existing power stations and emergency plants, and some may even be beyond what brand new plants can achieve.
Those of a deep green persuasion will no doubt argue that the sooner power stations burning coal and gas are forced to shut down the better. However, we will need some of these plants to continue to run into the next decade to ensure that the supply of electricity remains secure and affordable when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. So, we have until 20 May to gather our arguments and evidence to persuade the BREF Authors to take a more proportionate approach, and build alliances with representatives from other EU countries.
The final discussion meeting will take place in Seville in June; let’s hope it generates more light than heat!