…as Langerlo power station burns last tons of coal. The last tons of coal were burned in the Langerlo power plant last week, on 30th March, marking the end of an era for coal power in Belgium. Belgium follows other countries in cutting out coal power, adding to an increasingly bleak outlook for the coal industry.
The coal industry in Belgium has been in a structural decline, with power plants shutting down one after the other since 1990s. In 2009, E.ON planned a new coal-fired plant in Antwerp, but due to public protests, the government refused to grant the necessary permits. The Langerlo power station was the last one burning coal for electricity production in the country.
Ending coal power use in Belgium marks a significant step in the inevitable transition away from fossil fuels – Joanna Flisowska of CAN Europe said. Belgium going coal free is yet another proof that golden days of the coal industry are over.
Belgium is the seventh coal-free EU country, after Cyprus, Luxemburg, Malta and the Baltic countries. Many other EU countries are on track to become coal free. Last week one third of UK coal capacity was shut down, as the country plans to phase out coal by 2025. Portugal aims to be coal free by 2020, Austria by 2025 and Finland in 2020s.
Hard times for the coal industry will get a lot tougher yet, as many more countries are phasing out coal – Flisowska added. This is good news for the climate. To avoid worst impacts of climate change, the EU has to ensure that carbon emissions from its coal power plants are cut down much faster than their current rate.
Shutting down Langerlo coal power station means reducing Belgian annual CO2 emissions by almost 2 million tonnes. This accounts for more than 1% of total GHG emissions of the country. It will also spare Belgian citizens hundreds of tonnes of air pollution, including NOX, SO2, heavy metals and dust. Estimated costs of air pollution from the plant amount to EUR28-82 million.
Langerlo has burned through its last coal, but the plant might still not close. At the beginning of 2016, E.ON sold the plant to German Pellets, with the aim of converting it to biomass, which would be a far cry from sustainable energy production. However, persistent financial troubles of the current owner, German Pellets mean the Langerlo conversion to biomass is looking less certain by the day.
Climate Action Network Europe is Europe’s largest coalition working on climate and energy issues. With over 120 member organisations in more than 30 European countries – representing over 44 million citizens – CAN Europe works to prevent dangerous climate change and promote sustainable climate and energy policy in Europe.
Ania Drazkiewicz, CAN Europe Communications Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org , +32 494 525 738