From: Aoife White, Associated Press
Published May 10, 2007 12:00 AM

Environmentalists Say Low-Carbon Power Should Replace Coal Plants

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Just 30 coal-fired power plants contribute a tenth of the European Union's yearly carbon dioxide emissions and should be replaced with cleaner alternatives to combat climate change, an environmental group said Thursday.


WWF said most of the aging "Dirty Thirty" will have to replaced in the next 20 years, but energy companies such as RWE AG and Vattenfall seem to be choosing new coal generators to take over from old ones instead of switching to low-carbon power.


It ranked Europe's most polluting power stations on how efficient they were, putting at the top those that release the most CO2 per hour of kilowatt power.


The worst was a Greek plant at Agios Dimitrios, followed by another Greek site at Kardia and a German station at Niederaussern.


The top 10 polluters all run on lignite, or brown coal, a cheap power source mined in Germany, Poland, Greece and the Czech Republic. Four of them are German plants operated by RWE and two of them German plants run by Vattenfall.


"Most of the utilities in Europe believe that they can get away with business as usual," WWF climate and energy campaigner Stephan Singer said. "What counts is their real investment on the ground and if you look at Germany, of the 28 gigawatts of new power capacity that is planned, the majority is new coal."


Seven out of 10 of Europe's aging coal-fired plants will have to be phased out by 2025 and replaced with new plants designed to serve for 40 to 50 years.


The European Union this spring set a binding target for all 27 member nations to cut their carbon dioxide releases by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, urging countries to use less power and switch to more renewable sources such as wind and solar power.


The aim is to limit global warming to no more than 2 C above current temperatures.


Singer said power companies could make an important contribution to these CO2 targets by switching over the major polluting power stations to a mix of other energy sources such as natural gas and renewables.


"If you deal with a couple of the big installations, you do part of the job very easily," he said. "If you replace them with a decent mix of technologies, you can bring emissions down quite rapidly."


Coal is a cheap and relatively plentiful power source, but it releases far more carbon dioxide than burning natural gas. But to some, it offers a more reliable European alternative to imported -- and more expensive -- natural gas piped from Russia and North Africa.


Source: Associated Press


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