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Indicator Specification

Emissions of air pollutants from large combustion plants in Europe

Indicator Specification
  Indicator codes: INDP 002
Created 20 Nov 2017 Published 06 Jan 2020 Last modified 06 Jan 2020
8 min read
This indicator tracks trends since 2004 in emissions of SO 2 , NO x  and dust, as well as the environmental performance of LCPs. LCPs comprise combustion plants with a total rated thermal input equal to or greater than 50 MW.   The geographical coverage comprises the 28 EU Member States (EU-28) (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom).   The temporal coverage is 2004-2017 (most recent year with officially reported LCP emissions and fuel use; obtained from the EEA LCP database v5.2 — see  Data sources ).
 

Rationale

Justification for indicator selection

Anthropogenic emissions of SO2, NOx and dust all contribute to air quality problems in Europe. Excess deposition of sulphur and nitrogen compounds can lead to disturbances in the functioning and structure of ecosystems by, for example, causing the acidification of soils and waters as well as, in the case of nitrogen, the eutrophication of nutrient-poor ecosystems such as grasslands.

 

LCPs use large amounts of fuels, mostly fossil fuels, to produce useful forms of energy. These plants inevitably generate a number of residues, waste products and emissions to all environmental media (air, water and soil). Emissions from LCPs constitute a significant proportion of total anthropogenic emissions and are considered one of the main environmental pressures from LCPs.

 

Scientific references

  • No rationale references available

Indicator definition

This indicator tracks trends since 2004 in emissions of SO2, NOx and dust, as well as the environmental performance of LCPs. LCPs comprise combustion plants with a total rated thermal input equal to or greater than 50 MW.

 

The geographical coverage comprises the 28 EU Member States (EU-28) (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom).

 

The temporal coverage is 2004-2017 (most recent year with officially reported LCP emissions and fuel use; obtained from the EEA LCP database v5.2 — see Data sources).

Units

SO2, NOx and dust emissions — kilotonnes (kt)/year

Total fuel consumption — terajoules (TJ)/year

Implied emission factor — tonnes (t)/terajoules (TJ)

Rated thermal input — megawatt thermal (MWth)

 

Policy context and targets

Context description

 

The EU has had policies on emissions from combustion plants since the 1980s. Between 2004 and 2015, two pieces of EU law were in place: the LCP Directive and the IPPC Directive (EC, 2010). This EU legislation imposed specific limit values on emissions of NOx, SO2 and dust from plants with a thermal rated input equal to or greater than 50 MW. Since 1 January 2016, this legislation has been replaced by the IED (EC, 2010).

The aim of EU policy on LCPs is to reduce emissions to air, water and land, including measures related to waste, to achieve a high level of protection of the environment as a whole. The focus with regard to LCPs is to reduce emissions of acidifying pollutants, particles and ozone precursors while also covering other environmental concerns (e.g. mercury emissions). 

The Large Combustion Plant Directive

The EU (then the European Economic Community (EEC)) started to regulate combustion plants by means of Directive 84/360/EEC. This directive established a framework for the permitting of installations and the criteria to do so, but did not establish specific limitations that were applicable across Member States. During the 1980s, the European Communities became party to the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution which requires more harmonised action and the establishment of clearer operational criteria and emission limit values.

These directives were replaced by Directive 2001/80/EC, known as the LCP Directive, which imposed limits on emissions of NOx, SO2 and dust from plants with a rated thermal input equal to or greater than 50 MW. The aim of the LCP Directive was to reduce the emissions of acidifying pollutants, particles and ozone precursors.

The Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive and the 2006 Reference Document on Best Available Techniques for Large Combustion Plants

Combustion plants were also regulated by the so-called IPPC Directive, a piece of EU law that tackled LCPs in an integrated way and not only with regard to their emissions to air. Under the IPPC Directive, a BREF on LCPs was agreed on to establish a reference for the permits of LCPs.

The Industrial Emissions Directive (EC, 2010)

IED permits are based on an integrated approach to overall environmental performance. For LCPs, and several other activities, the IED sets emission limit values for SO2, NOx and dust. Permit conditions, including emission limit values, are based on BATs. The BAT reference document (BREF) and BAT conclusions on LCPs were published in 2017.

Permit conditions including emission limit values must be based on BATs. The term ‘best available techniques’ refers to the most effective, and economically and technically viable methods of operation that reduce emissions and the impact on the environment.

To define BATs, the European Commission organises an exchange of information between Member State experts, industry and environmental organisations. This process results in the production of BREFs. Each BREF contains information on the techniques and processes used in a specific industrial sector in the EU, current emission and fuel consumption trends, and techniques for the determination of BATs, as well as emerging techniques.

The European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register

An additional EU regulation is the Regulation on the European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR) (Regulation (EC) No 166/2006): plants with activities over certain thresholds must report to the E-PRTR on releases of pollutants and off-site transfers of waste and pollutants in waste water.

Targets

No targets have been specified

Related policy documents

Key policy question

What progress is being made towards reducing emissions from large combustion plants in the European Union?

Specific policy question

Has the environmental performance of large combustion plants in the European Union improved?

 

Methodology

Methodology for indicator calculation

Queries are applied to the LCP database v5.2 for the calculations necessary in this analysis. For each plant, total fuel consumption (a sum of fuel consumption from all fuel types) and capacity class (based on a plant's rated thermal input (MWth)) are calculated. Plants are grouped into five capacity classes: > 500 MWth, 301-500 MWth, 101-300 MWth, 50-100 MWth and < 50 MWth. The last of these (< 50 MWth) is excluded from calculations involving capacities in this indicator.

 

Fig. 1: to create an index graph of the pollutants, disaggregated by capacity class, an index for each pollutant and capacity class is calculated for 2004-2017 as follows: (emissions in the capacity class for the current year/emissions for all capacity classes in the base year) × 100. The base year is 2004.

 

Fig. 2: for each capacity class and year, emissions and total fuel consumption are summed, and an IEF is calculated as follows: emissions (t)/fuel consumption (TJ).

 

Figs 3 and 4: IEFs are calculated for each pollutant separated by capacity class (Fig. 3) and fuel type (Fig. 4) at the EU level. The sum of emissions for a given pollutant in a given year is divided by the total fuel consumption, for each capacity class and fuel type.

 

LCP emissions are reported at plant level if a plant can use different fuels. For the calculation of fuel-specific IEFs, only single-fuel plants (i.e. plants for which one fuel represents more than 95 % of the total fuel input in TJ) are included. All emissions of the plant are attributed to the single fuel, resulting in a coverage of 77 % of plants, 74 % of SOemissions, 81% of NOx emissions and 72 % of dust emissions. 

 

Methodology for gap filling

For the earlier years in the time series, some plants had missing MWth capacity data. Where possible, the MWth data from an adjacent year’s reporting for that plant were used to gap fill.

Methodology references

No methodology references available.

 

Data specifications

EEA data references

Data sources in latest figures

 

Uncertainties

Methodology uncertainty

This indicator covers the EU-28 countries. However, there are no data for Croatia for 2004-2009. The data for Croatia have not been gap filled, and in the years of reporting Croatia contributed less than 1 % of emissions and fuel consumption to the EU-28 total. This lack of data is thus considered a minor distortion of the overall trend.

 

Data sets uncertainty

Although reporting requirements began in 2004, it is possible that the data for the first reported period (2004-2006) contain some gaps.

Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified.

Further work

Short term work

Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.

Long term work

Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.

General metadata

Responsibility and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Marthe Granger

Ownership

European Environment Agency (EEA)

Identification

Indicator code
INDP 002
Specification
Version id: 2
Primary theme: Energy Energy

Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled once per year

Classification

DPSIR: Pressure
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)

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