British power plants among dirtiest in Europe

GENEVA (Reuters) - Most of the European Union’s 30 most polluting power stations, which together account for 10 percent of the bloc’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, are located in Germany and Britain, the WWF said on Thursday.

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In a report entitled “Dirty Thirty”, the conservation group said Germany and Britain were each home to 10 of the least environmentally efficient plants in the EU.

The two dirtiest power stations in the EU in relative terms -- grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour -- are in Greece: Agios Dimitrios and Kardia, both run by Greece’s largest power utility Public Power DEH, according to the Swiss-based WWF.

The 30 plants, which are all coal-fired, produce 393 million tonnes of heat-trapping CO2, equal to 10 percent of all EU CO2 emissions, it said. Carbon dioxide, mainly from burning fossil fuels, is widely blamed for stoking global warming.

The most polluting in absolute emission terms is Poland’s Belchatow power station which belched out 30.1 million tonnes of CO2 in 2006. Three other Polish stations also made the list.

“The facts are clear: the power sector needs to phase out dirty coal as soon as possible,” Stephan Singer, head of WWF’s European Climate and Energy Unit.

The WWF backs an EU emissions trading scheme to encourage investment in cleaner, more efficient plants. This would help the EU achieve its target of up to 30 percent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020.

There was a “historic window of opportunity” to reduce emissions over the next 20 years as most of the EU’s dirtiest coal power stations will have to be decommissioned during that period, it said. The WWF advocates replacing coal-fired plants by less CO2-intense natural gas or CO2-free renewable energies.

In the 1990s Britain shifted much of its power generation to abundant and cheap North Sea natural gas, but as reserves of this energy source dwindle generators have looked again at coal power.

The third dirtiest EU plant is Niederaussern in Germany, which altogether has six of the top 10 polluters, it said.

Among British-based plants, Longannet, which is owned by Scottish Power, is the worst relative emissions offender with a rank of 15th. The giant Drax power station polluted the most in absolute terms, emitting 22.76 million tonnes of CO2 in 2006.