(CN) – The European Commission said Monday that it will review operating permits of the EU’s 3,500 large combustion plants by 2021, with an eye to moving the continent to low-emissions energy production and compliance with the international Paris climate agreement.
Fuel-burning power plants with a total thermal input of over 50 megawatts will be reviewed, the commission said, noting the plants account for a third of all the EU’s industrial pollution.
“As the largest sectoral emitter in the EU, it is quite appropriate to require further cost-effective and technically feasible reductions of emissions,” the commission said in a statement. “For all affected installations, a review of their permits must now happen within four years so that by mid-2021 the emission limits set for all large combustion plants will be in line with the requirements of the ‘Best Available Technique’ conclusions.”
The “Best Available Technique” report has been years in the making and involved collaboration between EU member states, industry and environmentalists.
Review of the EU’s large fuel-burning power plants will help regulators determine whether member states are applying the best available techniques consistently, the commission said.
More than 30 percent of Europeans are exposed to air pollutant levels above EU standards, the commission said. Air pollution remains the biggest environmental cause of premature deaths in the EU – more than 400,000 annually, according to the agency.