Welsh coal-fired power plant under early closure threat

LONDON, June 11 Wed Jun 11, 2014 10:48am EDT

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LONDON, June 11 (Reuters) - RWE npower's Aberthaw power plant in Wales, one of Britain's biggest coal-fired stations, could close by 2016 as it may not comply with the European Union's latest pollution rules.

The power station, which supports thousands of jobs in the local coal industry, has been allowed to continue operating under an existing EU pollution law even though it produces more harmful gases than other power plants.

But a new pollution law, called the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED), coming into force in 2016, will require Aberthaw to comply with the same pollution standards as other plants. This could force the plant to close unless the government can renew its higher emissions threshold agreement with the European Commission.

Aberthaw was previously granted a higher emissions limit because it is designed to use a locally-mined type of coal that is more difficult to burn.

"We are working to ensure that Aberthaw Power Station will be able to operate compliantly into the 2020s," a spokeswoman from plant operator RWE npower said.

"However, key pieces of energy policy, such as the treatment of Aberthaw under the Industrial Emissions Directive, now need to be urgently clarified for us to make these significant investment decisions," she said.

The government said it could not comment on the case due to a confidentiality agreement with the European Commission.

"If the investments cannot be secured then plant closure can be expected as soon as 2016 with resultant severe impacts to the Welsh coal industry, RWE support staff and other large industrial units dependent on that industry," trade union GMB said in a statement.

RWE npower chose earlier this year to run Aberthaw under the "Limited Lifetime Derogation" of the IED which requires polluting power plants to shut down by the end of 2023 at the latest. (Reporting by Karolin Schaps. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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