Europe's carbon curtain

VIABLE coal markets in Europe are gravitating eastward as an emerging “carbon curtain” seems to mimic historical iron curtain boundaries on the continent.
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Justin Niessner

According to a recent analysis from Industrial Info Resources, new-build fossil-fuel power generation is alive and well in Europe but coal industry development is following a much different trajectory than natural gas.

“There is a 'carbon curtain' separating European Union nations like the United Kingdom and Germany from non-EU nations like Turkey, the Ukraine and Russia,” Industrial Info Europe president Nicola Lynch said.

“The EU is trying to move away from high-emitting coal-fired plants and is promoting a vast amount of renewable energy supported by gas-fired projects and nuclear power. Non-EU countries – and some EU nations like Poland – are still building a lot of coal-fired plants."

As Russia, Turkey and Ukraine are not members of the EU, they are not bound by the organization’s control policies regarding coal-fired plants.

IIR noted that coal is expected to play a prominent role in Turkey’s energy future as the country plans to build 15,000MW of new coal-fired generation, more than half of which is already underway.

New-build coal is also thriving in Ukraine and Russia where billions of dollars' worth of projects are scheduled to kick off by 2014.

Lynch said, however, that since some of these eastern nations are eager to join the EU, they may be obliged to abandon coal-fire projects or convert them to gas, outfitted with carbon capture and sequestration technology.

“Emissions restrictions are making it more expensive to build coal-fired plants in western and central Europe while a combination of anti-coal public opinion, political pressure and environmental protests make it harder for coal-fired plants to get past the planning stage,” she said.

“Some European countries like the UK have refused to grant planning permission for any new coal-fired plants unless they are equipped with CCS technology. But that technology, while progressing, is still in a pre-commercial stage.

“I think it will be a few years before we see commercial-scale CCS.”

The 27 nations that comprise the EU generated only 28% of their electricity from coal in 2008.

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