Draft plans to set sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emission limits for medium-sized combustion plants, such as electricity generators or heating systems for domestic, residential or industrial use, were informally agreed by MEPs and the Latvian Presidency of the Council on Tuesday. EU Member states will have to assess whether to introduce stricter limits in areas where these emissions breach EU air quality standards.

“The negotiations were very complex, as the directive itself is very technical. Finally, I think that we have found a balanced approach between the environmental impact of the directive on the one hand and reducing the burden on operators, mostly SMEs, on the other” said Andrzej Grzyb (EPP, PL), who is steering the legislation through Parliament. “I hope that Coreper will confirm the outcome, and that we will secure a substantial majority for the report in the committee”, he added.

As originally proposed by the European Commission, the maximum emission values, listed in annexes, of sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and dust from existing combustion plants with a thermal input above 5MW, would come into force from 2025. The smallest plants, with a thermal input from 1 to 5 MW, which are usually operated by SMEs, will have to comply with emission limit values from 2030.

The legislation does not prevent member states from enforcing tougher standards than are required by the directive. In negotiations, MEPs ensured that in areas not complying with EU air quality standards, national authorities are required to assess whether to introduce stricter limits.

Next steps

If endorsed by the Council’s committee of permanent representatives (COREPER), the agreed text will be put to a vote in the Environment Committee at a forthcoming session.

Note to editors

There are approximately 143,000 “medium” combustion plants in the EU, i.e. those with a thermal input rated between 1 and 50 MW. They are used for a wide variety of applications, such as electricity generation, domestic or residential heating and cooling and providing heat or vapour for industrial processes.

These plants are an important source of SO2, NOx and dust emissions. While small combustion plants can be covered by EU ecodesign legislation, and large combustion ones by the industrial emissions directive, emissions of air pollutants from medium combustion plants are generally not regulated at EU level.