Costs and health benefits of reducing emissions from power stations in Europe

Current levels of emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) from power plants generate very significant health and environmental damage across Europe. This study demonstrates that by applying up-to-date emission control technologies, these emissions could come down drastically. By estimating the costs and health benefits of further emission reductions, this study highlights the potential for substantial benefits for the European population from continued action to reduce emissions of SO2 and NOx.

Application of advanced emission control technologies to the 100 most polluting plants in the EU27 could reduce annual emissions of SO2 and NOx by approximately 3,400 and 1,100 kilotonnes respectively. This would cut total EU27 emissions of SO2 by approximately 40 per cent and emissions of NOx by 10 per cent.

The average benefit-to-cost ratio for measures at these 100 plants is 3.4, i.e. the estimated health benefits are 3.4 times bigger than the estimated emission control costs. The focus of this report on health means that damage to ecosystems and buildings is not included in the estimated benefits.

Emissions from large industrial point sources are currently regulated by the EU directives on Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) and Large Combustion Plants (LCP), and in December 2007 the European Commission presented proposed draft legislation to revise these directives.

It is evident from this study that there is significant variation in the application of emission control technologies between different plants and different countries. Improved application of Best Available Techniques (BAT) for reducing air pollutant emissions from large industrial point sources could contribute significantly to better air quality in Europe.

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