Defra restricts combustion plants

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New restrictions targeting air pollution from medium scale combustion plants and generators will soon come into force after gaining Parliamentary approval. The changes will implement the EU Medium Combustion Plant Directive, as the government continues to come under pressure to improve air quality and reduce emissions causing air pollution.

What are medium scale combustion plants?

Medium scale combustion plants (1-50MW thermal input under the EU directive) and generators are a significant source of pollutant emissions in the UK. They are frequently used to supply heat to buildings such as offices, hotels, hospitals and large buildings. They are also used to provide power and backup power across the wider business sector.

Further restrictions planned

The government say they are going further, applying ‘additional domestic emission controls’ to smaller scale, flexible generators not covered under the directive. The government claims the restrictions will realise 43% of the sulphur dioxide emissions reduction, 9% of particulate matter and 22% of nitrogen oxides emissions reduction needed to meet the UK’s 2030 targets.

New medium sized combustion plants will be required to reduce emissions from 20 December 2018. Existing medium scale combustion plants will need to comply from 2025 or 2030, depending on size. Large plants will have to act sooner.

Newer generators will also have to comply with a limit on nitrogen oxides emissions from 1 January 2019. Older generators (operating before December 2016), or those providing some services to the National Grid, have a later compliance requirement depending on size, emissions, operating hours, duration of their agreements with National Grid and whether they sign up to new agreements.

‘More to do’ to improve pollution

Environment Minister Therese Coffey said: “Air pollution has improved significantly since 2010, but we recognise there is more to do which is why we have put in place a £3.5b plan to improve air quality and reduce harmful emissions.

“These regulations will help deliver further substantial reductions in emissions, while minimising the impact on energy security and costs to businesses. Poor air quality affects public health, the economy, and the environment, which is why we are determined to do more, and later this year we will publish a comprehensive clean air strategy which will set out further steps to tackle air pollution.”

Energy expert analysis

“At last, the government is doing something to tackle emissions from small and medium scale combustion plants. Not before time and perhaps driven largely by pressure from European legislation coupled with the continuing pressure on the government to tackle the wider air pollution issue, particularly nitrogen oxide levels across the UK.” Alastair Fells MEI, Incorporated Eng, PG Dip Fuel Tech, BSc Hons

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