Commission investigates Pembroke power plant

9th November 2012


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Related tags

  • Pollution & Waste Management ,
  • Water ,
  • Prevention & Control



Planning permission for the 2GW gas-fired power station, which was recently opened in Pembroke by RWE npower, is to be investigated by the European Commission

The commission has sent the government an infringement notice outlining its concerns over the decision-making process granting permission for the combined cycle gas turbine power station and its water cooling system.

The plant, one of the largest of its kind in Europe, is described by the company as highly efficient, producing less than half the CO2 emissions of a similarly sized coal-fired power station and generating enough electricity to power 3.5 million households.

However, environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth (FoE) complained that the plant’s cooling system wastes energy by dumping heat into the protected Milford Haven estuary.

The commission wants DECC to clarify the impact of the plant on the area and to demonstrate compliance with the directives on environmental impact assessment (2011/92/EU), integrated pollution prevention and control (2008/1/EC) and the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (92/43/EEC).

“Our particular concern relates to the process applied to the choice of cooling system and the assessment of its likely impacts on the Pembrokeshire marine special area of conservation,” states the commission’s letter.

“In particular, we have concerns about the impacts of impingement and entrainment, of increased temperatures of water discharges and the addition of large quantities of biocides to these waters.”

RWE npower has a permit to extract water from the estuary to cool the gas turbines. But the water returning to estuary from the plant is around 8°C warmer and FoE claims the higher temperature could kill millions of fish and other marine species every year.

“We warned from the outset that the power station would cause unacceptable harm to this important marine environment at the same time as wasting colossal amounts of energy,” said Gareth Clubb, director of FoE Cymru.

“Time and time again we have pointed out that the UK government acted unlawfully in allowing this technology to be used in Wales, which is considered substandard in the US and England. Now our complaint to the commission means legal action.”

DECC notes that the commission has only issued a “notice of infringement” and not “full-blown infraction proceedings”, and said it is considering its response. The government has been given two months to reply to the letter.


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