New emissions limits for power stations will deliver massive CO2 savings in the most cost-effective way

Publish date: January 13, 2009

PRESS RELEASE: Strasbourg/Brussels - EU’s efforts to decarbonise the power sector would be given a huge boost through the introduction of an Emissions Performance Standard (EPS), a new study commissioned by environmental groups WWF, Bellona Europa, ClientEarth, E3G and Green Alliance reveals.

If binding emissions limits are introduced for all large power stations in the EU on a staged basis between 2010 to 2020, the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 could be cut by more than two-thirds – or more than 800 million tonnes per year – in 2020.

The research ‘Scenarios on the Introduction of CO2 Emission Performance Standards for the EU Power Sector’, carried by the consultancy Ecofys, also shows that an early phase-in of Emissions Performance Standards (EPS) would be more cost-effective and have greater impacts than a delayed introduction.

“The current EU Emissions Trading Scheme unfortunately does not prevent high polluting coal-fired power stations from being built. We need new emissions limits to help Europe to proactively invest only in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and CO2 capture and storage facilities for coal-fired power stations, or Europe will fail its contribution to keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius”, said Stephan Singer, Director of WWF’s Global Energy Programme.

A CO2 emissions performance standard (EPS) is a limit on emissions per unit of energy output. With such limit, new power plants that cannot meet the standard would not be built and existing power plants that do not plan to upgrade pollution controls or implement equivalent measures would close down. Utilities will have clear incentives to invest in energy efficiency measures, equip their new plants or retrofit the existing ones with CO2 capture and storage or switch to the renewable sources of energy.

The study clearly shows that an Emission Performance Standard needs to be phased in through stages for both new and existing plants. Such a regulatory roadmap should be decided as early as possible in order to provide predictability for utilities. Imposing a very demanding limit of 150g CO2 / kWh just on new plants from 2010 would deliver reductions of 10% of power sector greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, while a staged introduction of a less stringent 350g standard applied also to existing plants by 2015, could save up to 46% of power sector emissions by 2020.

In contrast to continuing to allow construction of new conventional fossil fuel power stations under the guise of ‘capture readiness’, an Emissions Performance Standard is an effective means of providing the real regulatory certainty needed to shift investment decisions in the power sector, and avoid dangerous lock-in to high carbon power infrastructure.

It will also be key to move Europe’s commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from 20% to 30% as soon as a new international agreement is in place. WWF, Bellona Europa, ClientEarth, E3G and Green Alliance say that, despite recent agreement on new climate and energy legislation, more action to limit greenhouse gas emissions is essential in order to re-establish Europe’s credibility and build greater international confidence ahead of the crucial Copenhagen climate summit in December.

The revision of the IPPC and Large Combustion Plant directives into a new Industrial Emissions Directive currently under consideration by EU law-makers represents a unique opportunity to introduce a CO2 EPS for power plants, and is the last chance to do so before Copenhagen.

Notes to the editors:

The power sector is responsible for 30% of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

An emission performance standard (EPS) is a limit of a pollutant per unit of output, and is a legal concept already used in EU law today. Since the 1980s, for example, power stations and other large combustion plants have applied emissions standards to the pollutants contained in stack emissions that cause acid rain and smog. CO2 standards, expressed as grams per kilometre, were also agreed recently for Europe’s car manufacturers.

The study was presented today at an event at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

For more information please contact: 

Ms. Nailia Dindarova


Te: + 32 499 51 02 16.

About Ecofys

Established in 1984, Ecofys is one of the largest international consultancy firms in sustainable energy and climate policy, specialising in energy saving and renewable energy solutions. As part of the Econcern group, Ecofys offers research and consultancy services as well as product development. Its areas of expertise include solar energy, wind energy, biomass, hydrogen technology, energy supply and climate policies.