(This blog was first posted at IEEFA, here)

Kosovo’s main power plant is one of Europe’s biggest emitters of pollutants including NOX and dust, shows analysis by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), underlining the priority to clean up generation in one of Europe’s poorest countries, ahead of investing further in new lignite power.

The World Bank is considering funding a new lignite-fired power plant in Kosovo (“Kosovo C”). IEEFA’s analysis of emissions data from the European Environment Agency (EEA) suggests that cleaning up the existing Kosovo B is a more urgent priority, given dust emissions 9000% above new EU limits agreed by member states three weeks ago.

Kosovo B provides most of the country’s electricity. Its two generation units ranked second and third for “dust” emissions, among Europe’s 734 larger installations burning coal, lignite and biomass, shows IEEFA analysis of EEA 2014 data, the latest available.

Dust, or particulate matter (PM), is the most dangerous outdoor air pollutant, according to the World Health Organisation, which finds that smaller particulates have health impacts even at very low concentrations – “indeed no threshold has been identified below which no damage to health is observed,” the WHO states.

In its latest annual environmental report, for 2016, the state-owned power plant operator KEK simply states: “Due to the design of electrostatic finishing, Kosova B, is not in line with standards defining the emissions limits for dust.”

IEEFA’s analysis showed that 17 of Europe’s top 20 dust emitters were in eastern and south-eastern Europe (Bulgaria, Kosovo, Greece, Estonia, Slovakia, Romania and Poland), partly showing a legacy from the communist era.

The two units of Kosovo B also had the dubious distinction of being the sixth and seventh biggest NOX emitters, according to IEEFA calculations. NOX is another serious air pollutant which the WHO states increases cases of bronchitis in asthmatic children, and reduces lung function growth.

IEEFA calculated the rate of emissions of dust and NOX, in milligrams per cubic metre of flue gases (mg/Nm3), using EEA data which reports emissions in tonnes annually. The calculation made certain assumptions regarding the calorific value and moisture content of lignite, using German levels.

In this way, IEEFA could compare emissions rates across all European power plants. IEEFA also compared power plant emissions rates with new European limits agreed three weeks ago, under the Best Available Techniques Reference Document, also known as “BREF”.

Regulators in EU member states should implement the revised BREF limits into coal plant permits by 2021.

According to IEEFA calculations, dust emissions from the two units at Kosovo B were 1,000 and 1,053 mg/Nm3 in 2014. That is more than 80 times – or 9,000% above – the revised BREF limit of 12 mg/Nm3 from 2021. NOX emissions by the units were calculated as 980 and 961 mg/Nm3. That is more than five times – or 400% above – the revised BREF limit of 175 mg/Nm3.

The World Bank is presently considering funding a new lignite power plant in Kosovo, under a project which would also comprise an environmental upgrade to Kosovo B. The World Bank indicates that USAID is studying the feasibility of that upgrade. The Kosovo government and World Bank state that a new lignite power plant will favour the people. Such a position is more difficult to accept, before a thorough clean-up of the country’s lignite generation already in place.

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