Energy & Environment


( | Press Release | 2016-10-13 22:56:24 )
MADRID — Not only is Spain’s plan that exempts power plants to comply with stricter emissions values established by the EU unlawful, but it is also out-of-date.

According to a European Directive, power plants in member states may apply for an exemption via a Transitional National Plan (TNP) that allows them to continue to emit higher levels of pollutants — including sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and dust — than those provided by the Directive into the atmosphere until 2020.

And, although the current plan was accepted by the European Commission in March, it was never approved by the Spanish Council of Ministers, nor was it published in the state’s official journal (Boletín Oficial del Estado) as required by law.

Spain’s current TNP lists 30 installations of which 22 use coal as fuel. However, the plan is anything but accurate: it lets plants emit higher levels of pollutants than those allowed for by the EU, and includes a power plant that closed its doors two months before the European Commission adopted the last version of the plan — an inclusion that raises the total emissions ceiling allowed for the rest of the plants within the plan.

In addition to these flaws, the plan does not comply with Spanish Law. According to the law, once the European Commission adopts the plan prepared by the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment, it must be approved by the Spanish Council of Ministers.

“Since January 2016, coal power plants in Spain are operating under a plan that does not comply with the rule of law requirements, and thus, continue to damage our health and the environment,” states Ana Barreira, director of the Instituto Internacional de Derecho y Medio Ambiente (IIDMA).

“The TNP has not been subject to a strategic environmental impact assessment as is required by international, EU and national laws,” adds Barreira, “and, as a consequence, the Spanish TNP has never been subject to a public participation procedure as required by those laws.”

The TNP is just one of a number of exemptions that coal power plants can opt for to continue emitting higher levels of pollutants that those provided by the EU’s Industrial Emissions Directive (IED).Emissions that, according to the report “Lifting Europe’s Dark Cloud,” already caused 1,530 premature deaths in 2013 in Spain alone. Other exemptions in the IED include an option for power plants to limit their hours of operation to 17,500 hours over the next eight years or, in the case of plants being part of a smaller, isolated grid, they can continue to exceed the EU’s limits until 2019.

The government contends that coal power plants are needed to maintain an adequate safety margin within the country’s electrical grid. However, this is not the case: eliminating coal would not threaten this safety margin as Spain’s current electrical system operates at a 30 percent overcapacity.

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About the International Institute for Law and the Environment (IIDMA)

Founded in 1996, the IIDMA is a public interest law center whose goal is to contribute to the protection of the environment and to promote sustainable development through the study, development, implementation and enforcement of the law. Since 1998, IIDMA is accredited to the United Nations Environment Assembly under the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The IIDMA was declared an organization of public interest by the Spanish Ministry of Home Affairs in 2001. For more information about the IIDMA, please visit

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