Medium Combustion Plants Directive

On 10 November 2015, the Council of Ministers of the EU adopted the Commission's proposal for a Medium Combustion Plants Directive, completing the regulatory framework for controlling air pollution from combustion of fuels.

Medium combustion plants are used for many activities taking place close to where people live, such as generating electricity, domestic/residential heating and cooling, and providing heat/steam for industrial processes. While doing so they can significantly influence air quality.

According to the EU Commission, this Directive is “a good example of better regulation as it is designed to be affordable for SMEs, provides long-term certainty for all economic operators concerned and minimises the administrative burden for both industry and Member States”. The new rules are part of the Clean Air legislative package, which sets out the EU strategy to improve air quality by 2030.

In details:

  1. The directive sets limits for emissions of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter. These limits will be applied for new and existing combustion plants of medium size (between 1 and 50 MW).

  2. Compared to the initial proposal from the European Commission, the agreed text introduces differentiated regimes for existing combustion plants, based on their size. This aims at reducing costs for the smallest plants whilst maintaining a high level of environmental protection.

  3. Limits will be applied to bigger existing plants (5-50 MW) from 2025 and as from 2030 to smaller ones (1-5 MW). New plants will need to comply with the limits after a transposition period of two years following entry into force.

  4. Extended compliance deadlines until 2030 may be granted to some plants, in particular to:

  • district heating systems;

  • plants firing biomass as their main fuel;

  • plants being part of small isolated systems (for instance, on islands);

  • specific plants linked to a national gas transmission system.

Background Information:

The Commission presented its proposal to the Environment Council on 3 March 2014. The EU environment ministers held an initial policy debate on the proposed directive on 12 June 2014.

Later on, the Council reached a general approach on the proposal on 17 December 2014. This allowed the Council presidency to start negotiations with the European Parliament in May 2015.

On 23 June 2015, the European Parliament and the Council reached a provisional agreement on the proposal. Their agreed text makes several changes to the Commission's original proposal. The changes include:

  • the specification that medium combustion plants can only be operated after registration or with a permit;
  • the introduction of different regimes for existing medium combustion plants, based on their size extended compliance deadlines for some plants, such as district heating systems, plants where biomass is the main fuel, plants that are part of small isolated systems (such as on islands) and specific plants linked to a national gas transmission system
  • the provision that member states shall assess the need to apply stricter limits for individual plants in zones not complying with EU air quality limit values;
  • the introduction of rules to monitor carbon monoxide emissions

The agreement was confirmed by Coreper (the Committee of Permanent Representatives) on 30 June 2015.

Copy of the agreement approved on 10 November 2015:

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