Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Missing the point

Lord Willoughby de Broke asked on Tuesday about the large combustion plants directive about which he had written on epolitix, expressing his view that the implementation of the directive (which, apparently, we have to do despite being told that Parliament is the sovereign legislator)"could mean lights out for Britain".
The European Union's Large Combustion Plant Directive (LCPD) came into effect on January 1, 2008. It sets limits on the amount of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and dust particulates that coal- or oil-fired generating plants may emit. All these plants must comply by January 1, 2016 either by meeting the limits set out in the directive, or 'opting out' by reducing their total operating time to 20,000 hours by the end of 2015 and then shutting down.

As with so much EU legislation, this is well-meaning who could reasonably object to reducing environmentally harmful emissions? but is likely to give the UK serious difficulties in retaining adequate generating capacity for its needs. Under the LCPD, 14 power stations, generating 25 per cent of the UK's current energy requirements, would have to close by the end of 2015.

A leaked 2009 Whitehall briefing paper prepared for MEPs warned that the LCPD 'raises potentially serious issues about security of electricity supply'. In other words, the lights could go out under the LCPD's deadlines. The government's concerns have been echoed by the Confederation of British Industry, who stated that: 'Businesses want to help air pollution, but this directive must be implemented in a way that doesn't undermine the UK's energy security'.
So what is HMG's attitude? The Starred Question was:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what are their intentions as regards the large combustion plant directive and the generating plants concerned.
HMG's response, given by Lord Henley was tight-lipped:
My Lords, the Government's intention is that all combustion plants in the UK which are subject to that directive should comply with its requirements.
Lord Willoughby persisted, even suggesting that British legislation should be carried out by the British Parliament for the good of the British people.
My Lords, I am grateful for that frank Answer. However, can the Minister confirm that, under the provisions of that directive, 25 per cent of the UK's generating capacity is due to close down by 2015? Would it not be preferable for the United Kingdom's energy policy to be made by the Government and the Parliament in this country rather than contract it out to the European Commission?
Lord Henley dealt with that by simply ignoring it:
My Lords, I cannot confirm the noble Lord's figure; I would not accept that it will be as high as 25 per cent by 2015. I accept that a number of plants are so dirty in their emissions that they will have to close in due course, but I can confirm that other generating capacity is coming on stream in time to replace those that will close.
All a little vague, as was the rest of the debate, which consisted of several rather well-meaning comments (if somewhat catty at UKIP's expense) about certain problems being international and needing international solutions and, of course, everybody's health will be so much better if we get rid of the nasty emissions. Of course, people's health may take a turn for the worse if there is not enough power to provide everyone with light and heat but that is not going to happen. No, no, no.

Lord Pearson raised the subject of fuel poverty and the Minister deliberately misunderstood the question, pretending that it was about unemployment. When put right, he simply assured everyone that electricity prices will not go up by nearly as much as is feared. Of course, if they do, Lord Henley is not likely to be called to account for misleading the House.

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