Yesterday, the European Commission answered questions, tabled by 5 MEPs in July, regarding planned investment to construct two new 900MW units at a coal-fired plant in Opole (Poland). The plan to expand Opole power plant is heavily criticized by Members of all major political groups in the European Parliament, as it is in breach with the Directive on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS Directive).
The building permit for Opole investment has been issued without an assessment whether the new units are so called “CCS-ready”, meaning whether the CCS technology can be used in the future. Since the entry into force of the CCS Directive in July 2011, such an assessment is mandatory for all new gas and coal power stations with a capacity exceeding 300 MW. The Polish Courts judged that due to non-transposition of the CCS Directive into Polish law neither the competent authorities nor the investors in Poland are legally obliged to conduct an assessment.
”The violation of EU law is not acceptable and has to be penalized. The Commission confirmed that Member States are not relieved from the obligation to apply EU Directives even if they failed to transpose them”, said EPP Member Sirpa Pietikainen. The deadline for the transposition of the CSS Directive passed on 25 June 2011. In July 2011 the European Commission launched an infringement procedure against Poland.
”Poland is missing the chance to bring its energy supply on track towards a sustainable low carbon economy; instead they get locked in with coal energy and high emissions for the next decades”, commented Jo Leinen, Member of the S&D group. Emissions from Opole are expected to top 1.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide over the next 55 years and could prevent Poland from meeting its target of generating 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, according to a study by the Polish Climate Coalition (PCC).
”While the US and China are both making efforts to reduce emissions from coal power plants, the Polish government should invest in the most efficient and state of art technology, which is also in its own economic interest” suggests liberal MEP Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy (ALDE). Instead, the Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, showed commitment to financially support the 2.7 billion EURO units in Opole.
Chris Davies, Member of the ALDE group, is Parliament’s rapporteur for the CCS Directive and believes that Poland should be taking a lead in the development of carbon capture technology rather than trying to avoid even minimal obligations. He said: ”As the host this year of the UN’s climate change conference the time is long overdue for Poland to explain how it will play its part in meeting Europe’s CO2 reduction goals. It is hard to imagine that CCS will not be needed if it is to achieve these.”
The news comes just ahead of the climate conference in Warsaw. ”It is high time for the Polish government to modernize its outdated energy system run on dirty coal. Prioritizing renewable energy would result in cleaner air and a healthier environment for its citizens. Poland is clearly not leading by example as the host of the next international climate talks” according to MEP Bas Eickhout (Greens).
The Parliamentary Question and the European Commission’s answer to the written question can be found at: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+WQ+E-2013-009110+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN .