Low prices spur U.K. to burn coal, though limits loom large

Dropping coal prices in Europe have led utilities in the U.K. to run coal-fired power plants instead of newer natural gas-fueled generators, which could push the country up against regional emissions regulations, according to according to Reuters.

An EU agreement designed to reduce carbon emissions continent-wide set fixed limits on the number of hours that older oil and coal-fired generators could be run, capping these plants at 10,000 hours and 20,000 hours respectively. 

All the designated plants, around 11.5 gigawatts of generating capacity, would otherwise be required to shut down by 2015 regardless, but the sudden plunge in the cost of coal has encouraged companies to run through their allotted hours faster than anticipated. 

In turn, substantial uncertainty in the structure and stability of incentives for renewable energy is limiting investment in new generation capacity. Without a change in policy, this could lead to a shortage of generating capacity in the U.K. by the middle of the decade. 

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that data show the U.S. has benefited in terms of carbon emissions from the export of coal to Europe, but emissions in that region have suffered comparatively.

European coal regulations are detailed at PennEnergy's Research area.

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