Romania asks for a new respite from the EC on coal-fired power plants

Attending the Informal Energy Council in Linz, Austria, during 17-19 September, Energy Minister Anton Anton has requested an exemption for coal-fired power plants used as backup units from European requirements regarding the amount of pollutant emissions released into the atmosphere.

Within the European Commission (EC) there are discussions on the introduction of so-called capacity mechanisms in all EU’s Member States. These mechanisms would apply to the energy generation units that will be used only in critical situations, such as the unexpected exit from the system of certain producers or failure of some units. The purpose of this measure is to avoid situations where, due to a lack of available capacity, population and companies in a certain region would run out of electricity.

The power plants selected to provide energy production in critical situations would receive such an incentive, named capacity mechanism. But this would become complicated if these power plants had to comply with the pollution level requested by the European Commission, i.e. 550 grams of CO2/kWh.

This would be even more difficult in Romania, country which, even if it depends to a quite great extent on coal to ensure its own consumption, hasn’t invested enough in the upgrade of old coal-fired power plants and it hasn’t built new units. For this purpose, during the informal meeting in Linz, Minister Anton supported the establishment of general common principles with applicability for all types of capacity mechanisms, but with the possibility for each Member State to choose the type of mechanism depending on the specificities and needs of the national energy system.

From minister’s perspective, the limit of 550g CO2/KWh for energy capacities that can enter the capacities market would eliminate the possibility for coal-based capacities subject to upgrade and new units to benefit from the capacity mechanisms. This very strict limit affects precisely the energy capacities that have a significant contribution to ensuring energy security.

“For Romania, the prospect of excluding from the market the production capacities based on domestic coal, by increasing the price of carbon allowances, is worrying. We believe that such an approach, in the medium and long term, could create big adequacy problems for the national energy system and will thus call energy security into question. Electricity supply security is and must remain a responsibility of Member States’ governments,” Energy Minister Anton Anton has stated.

Moreover, during the same meeting, Minister Anton has requested an extension at least until 2030 of the operating period for the existing coal-fired power plants, invoking that transition to a less polluting national and European energy sector would thus be endangered, especially in countries such as Romania, which depend on coal.

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