Chvaletice plant. Credit: Jan Posejpal

Chvaletice Power Plant Granted Exemption From Emission Limits

The Chvaletice coal-fired power plant has been granted an exemption from the emission limits for nitrogen oxides and mercury, as the Regional Court in Ostrava confirmed the exemption late last year, said Petr Dusek on behalf of the power plant.

The power plant had been seeking the exemption for several years.

Last October, the Regional Court rejected a lawsuit filed by environmental organisations against the Environment Ministry and confirmed the exemption, said Dusek. Currently, the power generation must comply with the terms of the integrated permit issued by the regional authority in Pardubice last July. The Frank Bold organisation filed a cassation complaint against the court’s decision.

“The reasoning of the judgement shows that the exemption was granted in accordance with the law, will not cause serious pollution and will not endanger the high level of environmental protection. Meanwhile, the Chvaletice power plant has advanced in applied research and is preparing technologies to reduce mercury emissions,” Dusek said.

The Regional Court granted the Chvaletice power plant a transitional period until 17 August 2027, with more lenient emission limits for nitrogen oxides of 190 micrograms per cubic metre and for mercury of 23 micrograms per cubic metre. Within this period, the plant’s operator must submit regular reports on the fine-tuning and improving of abatement technologies and on the results achieved.

The plant’s integrated permit originally had an emission limit for nitrogen oxides of 200 milligrams per cubic metre, but the new annual average concentration is 175 milligrams per cubic metre. For mercury, there was no emission limit in the past, but now the annual average concentration is set at seven micrograms per cubic metre. According to the integrated permit, the power plant may also exceed the limits for nitrogen oxides and mercury in times of emergencies if there are problems with energy supply in this heating season.

Environmental organisations criticised the regional authority after the integrated permit was issued. They say the decision with the possibility of lower emission limits during emergency conditions effectively means an emission exemption.

Martin Vlasak, the head of the environment and agriculture department of the regional authority, said the plant has already applied for a change to the integrated permit on the basis of a court confirmation of the exemption.

“The integrated permit is valid, the operator did not appeal against it and had no problem with it. I don’t know how they want to justify that they are able to comply with it, and the new exemption allows them to pollute more,” Greenpeace spokesman Lukas Hrabek told CTK.

Environmentalists also blame the plant for promising to reduce production in the past so that it would not emit as much air pollution. “However, after receiving the exemption, the plant increased production to record levels and pollution increased,” said Hrabek.

He pointed to the case of the Tusimice power plant, run by the CEZ state-controlled power utility, which reduced mercury emissions by 62% in the same period. In 2022, the Chvaletice plant overtook other polluters to become the largest source of mercury emissions in the entire country.

Between 2019 and 2021, the regional authorities in Pardubice and Olomouc successively granted exemptions to the plant, but in both cases they were revoked on appeal by the Environment Ministry. In the summer of 2021, the Olomouc regional authority tightened but granted the exemption, and the ministry finally confirmed it in the autumn. Later, the Regional Court in Ostrava revoked it twice, but the Chvaletice power plant succeeded twice in appealing to the Supreme Administrative Court. The third time, the Regional Court rejected the environmental organisations’ claims and ruled on the validity of the exemption. The new emission limits based on European legislation apply from 17 August 2021.

The Chvaletice power plant is the youngest lignite-fired power plant in the country, in operation since 1979. Severni energeticka (Sev.en) bought the plant from CEZ in 2013 for CZK 4.12 billion. It produced a record 4.9 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity in 2022. It has undergone costly renovations, but would have to invest further large sums to meet the required emission limits for mercury and nitrogen oxides. An exemption allows for more lenient limits to be maintained temporarily.

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