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Energy 24 November, 2017 11:00 am   
Editorial staff

Batting the BAT. Poland may postpone the sentence for coal

Derogations from the rigors of BAT Conclusions for Large Combustion Plants (LCP) are possible – writes the editor of the BiznesAlert.pl portal, Teresa Wójcik.

The Polish Electricity Committee (PKEE) points out that the issues related to the implementation of the BAT Conclusions, in the document issued in the November 16th this year under the name “Adjustment to Emission Limits Contained in the BAT Conclusions for Large Combustion Plants (LCP)”, are of great importance for the Polish power industry.

On 28 April 2017, the European Commission adopted the Conclusions on the Best Available Techniques (BAT). The Conclusions introduce high LCP emission standards in industry and power engineering to protect the environment. Poland’s critical attitude towards the requirements of the BAT conclusions was supported by seven states – Germany, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Finland and Slovakia. However, it was not possible to gather the blocking minority and prevent the adoption of the Conclusions in the proposed form.

Draconian deadline – four years for adapting to the BAT Conclusion

It is worth recalling that the Conclusions were drawn up on the basis of a BAT reference document (BREF). It includes the best available techniques in LCP installations, as well as the emission levels associated with the best available techniques. The document refers to: – a fuel combustion installation (at least 50 MW of total fuel power); – directly related to certain coal or other fuels gasification installations; – incineration plants and waste co-incineration plants. Although the BAT Conclusions recognize exceptions in which restrictive standards do not apply – for example, using refining fuels. This is the consequence of decisions made for other industries, in this case for the refining industry.

Since the BAT Conclusions were published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 17 August 2017, the domestic operators of the existing installations have to comply with the standards resulting from the Conclusions until 16 August 2021. This is due to the provisions of the Conclusions and Directive 2010/75/EU of 24 November 2010 on Industrial Emissions Directive (IED).

Stringent emission levels are a serious problem

The concerns of the most stringent emission levels associated with the best available techniques (so-called BAT-AELs) are particularly justified for the Polish power industry.  BAT-AELs levels are defined in terms of range (e.g. for installations above 300 MW the NOX standard is defined as <85-150 mg/Nm3). Whereby, the upper limit of the range will be of the highest importance, because it will be determined by the so-called emission limit values underlying the integrated permits. In addition to introducing stricter standards, BAT conclusions have also included additional non-standard substances such as Hg (Mercury), HCl (Hydrogen chloride), HF (Hydrogen Fluorine) and NH3 (Ammonia).

The required adaptation process of national power plants to emission standards of the BAT conclusions represent a serious problem for Poland. First of all, existing installations must provide energy security. Meanwhile, large power plants have only 4 years for the modernization, in order to comply with the BAT conclusions. Such an adjustment period is too short and could jeopardize the security of electricity supply in Poland.

The second problem is generating further high costs. According to some estimates, the adjustment of the Polish coal power sector to the BAT conclusions would cost about PLN 10 billion. For many Polish power companies BAT conclusions will mean the need to carry out costly investments once again. After the already completed modernization according to the requirements of the IED.  These modernizations required large financial outlays and now there will be further.

Possible deviations from the standards required in the Conclusions

However, for existing coal power plants there is a solution. Under the applicable EU regulations, operators of large combustion plants, in justified cases, are entitled to apply for a specified period of derogation from the emission levels indicated in the BAT Conclusions. Namely art. 15 item 4 of the IED Directive states that: “Such a derogation may only apply if the assessment shows that achieving the emission levels associated with the best available techniques described in the BAT conclusions would lead to disproportionate costs to environmental benefits due to: a) the geographical location of the installation or local environmental conditions; or b) technical characteristics of the installation”. The IED, along with the national regulations, provides for temporary derogations from the emission limit values of the BAT Conclusions (this is not a derogation from all BAT conclusions, it does not concern, inter alia, monitoring). There is a need for a proper analysis of the conditions for applying derogations from the emission limit values.

There are chances, so they should be utilized-  PKEE calls on

The Polish Electricity Regulatory Commission (PKEE) highlights the importance of issues arising from the BAT Conclusions for the Polish Electricity Power (PKEE) in a document issued on November 16th this year under the name “Adaptation to the Emission Limits contained in the BAT Conclusions for Large Combustion Plants”. The document indicates the possibility of derogations from the four-year deadline, which is necessary in Polish conditions. He also highlights threats and the need to use the possibility of derogating from the rigors of the BAT Conclusions. He states, inter alia, that “early complete discontinuation of carbon units could pose a risk of failure to meet delivery reliability standards and a significant additional burden on end-users”. He also draws attention to the fact that in Poland, the process of transforming the energy mix “must be properly set in time and carried out progressively, by maintaining e.g. security of electricity supply and the necessary protection of consumers. This requires a comprehensive analysis of the conditions for adaptation to the more stringent environmental standards set out in the BAT Conclusions, including the applicability of the derogations, where justified. ”

Handbook of the Ministry of the Environment

PKEE notes that the Ministry of the Environment published on 22 August 2017 the “Manual on Rules for Extending Exceptions to the Limits of Emissions” contained in the BAT Conventions for Large Combustion Plants (LCP), pursuant to Art. 204 section 2 of the EPP Act.” The purpose of the publication is to ensure that the rules for the possible application and uniform interpretation of the provisions concerning a possible derogation from the use of the emission levels indicated in the BAT Conclusions are met. The manual provides legal and technical conditions for granting derogations from the emission limit values. What is important, it sets out the rules for drawing up an application for a change or issuance of an integrated permit and a request for a derogation from the emission limit values. It also provides a methodology for counting environmental costs and benefits that may justify derogation from the BAT Conclusions.

The decision to grant a derogation is made by the authority issuing the decision to change the integrated permit, and in practice, mostly by the competent  Marshal of the Voivodship for the given unit. Conclusions do not specify the date by which a derogation may be granted, the situation of the installation is crucial. The length of this deadline will depend on the circumstances surrounding the grant of the derogation.