Environment Agencyâ€™s Sustainability Report points to a rising demand for coal caused by cold weather as reason for rise in emissions in 2012
Emissions of sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM10) increased in 2012 compared to the previous year, data published by the Environment Agency today (November 11) has revealed.
This is among the details published in the Agencyâ€™s Sustainable Business Report, which attributes the rise in emissions to an increase in the amount of coal burned in the power generation sector due to cold weather.
But, the Agency also points to the falling price of coal in comparison to gas as a contributing factor in the increase, as it is now more attractive to industry as a fuel, with a 24% increase in the average demand for coal between 2011 and 2012.
The report notes: â€œAgainst a general trend of falling emissions since 2000, SOx, NOx and PM10 emissions increased in 2012. SOx emissions increased by 19%, NOx emissions by 13% and PM10 increased by 14%. The increase in all three pollutants over the last two years has been primarily caused by the increase in the amount of coal burned in the power generation sector. This is partially due to the colder winter but mainly because the price of coal has fallen, relative to gas, making it more attractive to industry as a fuel.â€
The Environment Agency estimates that the knock-on health costs from increased emissions rose from approximately Â£845 million in 2011 to Â£957 million in 2012.
However, the report does note that the overall trend in these pollutants is still downward, with a 69% reduction in SOx emissions since 2000, and further â€˜significantâ€™ reductions of NOx and PM10 also expected over the next few years as more fossil-fuelled power stations are taken off the grid.
Environment Agency chief executive Dr Paul Leinster, said: â€œLast yearâ€™s cold winter and cheaper coal imports led to more coal being used for electricity generation, resulting in a rise in emissions from sulphur and nitrogen oxides and particulates. However, these emissions will reduce significantly in the future as the operation of coal-fired power stations is restricted by European Directives.
â€œOverall, the environmental performance of industry in England is good and continues to improve. Serious pollution incidents have more than halved since 2000. It is good to see that 78% of sites scored an â€˜Aâ€™ rating for environmental performance this year â€“ the highest ever- even in difficult economic times.â€