The House of Lords, the upper house of the UK parliament, has voted to eliminate, or force the modification of, Britain's coal-fired power plants more quickly than expected as opposition party Labour defeated the government in a vote to amend the Energy Bill.
Members supported the closure of a loophole in the bill allowing some of the UK's oldest coal stations to avoid the necessity to apply a new emissions performance standard (EPS) to cut their carbon emissions.
But the Lords voted to bring older coal power stations under the new regulations, which will force them to cut down on their greenhouse gas emissions. Under the EPS, which sets a maximum level of carbon that can be produced by a plant, they are likely to become operationally uneconomic unless they fit carbon capture and storage technology that is yet to be used on a large commercial scale and is of unknown cost. It will now be considered by MPs who could vote to overturn it when the energy bill returns to the House of Commons.
The UK's opposition Labour party had urged MPs to vote for tougher controls on Britain's coal-fired power stations, forcing them to reduce their emissions, as new figures show these older plants are responsible for 1600 premature deaths a year. A study by the Health and Environment Alliance concluded that air pollution from coal plants causes respiratory problems that have a big impact on public health. The charity released an analysis showing coal pollution leads to health complications resulting in more than 360 000 lost working days each year.
Responding to the Lords vote, Greenpeace policy director Doug Parr said:
'Lord Oxburgh's amendment to the Energy Bill would have helped limit dangerous pollution from our dirtiest coal fired power stations, increase security of supply and strengthen investment in cleaner power sources. Reducing the amount of coal in the power sector during the 2020s is essential if we're to have any chance of achieving a lower-carbon economy.'