Under the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) the large combustion plants BAT conclusions provide a description of emission levels designed for the different sectors and fuels such as coal, lignite, natural gas or biomass, defining the allowed levels of fuel combustion, gasification of fuel, disposal and recovery of waste in co-incineration plants.




Large combustion plants in scope of the IED are present in electricity and heat generation and many industries, including  iron and steel, refineries or chemical sectors (covering circa 3 500 large combustion plants in EU). 

To be precise, the Directive 2010/75/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council on industrial emissions of 24 November 2010 (integrated pollution prevention and control - IED) applies to:

-​ activities covered by the IPPC Directive and other activities which are being included in the IPPC code; these are listed in Annex I to the IED;
-​ dry-cleaning and other activities covered by the VOC Solvents Directive; these activities are those listed in Part I of Annex VII to the IED which reach the consumption thresholds set out in Part 2 of that Annex (Article 56) with a solvent consumption of less than 10 tonnes per year;
-​ combustion plants designed for production of energy, the rated thermal input of which is equal to or greater than 50 MW irrespective of the type of fuel used (Article28);
-​ waste incineration plants and waste co-incineration plants which incinerate or co-incinerate solid or liquid waste (Article 42); and
- ​installations producing titanium dioxide (Article 66).

Under the IED the EU Member States are required to control and reduce the impact of industrial emissions on the environment. Installations are only allowed to operate with a permit that specifies the conditions for operation, and they are obliged to use the best available techniques (BAT). The permit for an installation has to take into account the entire environmental performance of the plant (i.e. an ‘integrated approach’). The IED places restrictions on the number of running hours for fossil fuel power generation plants with regard to the harmful waste gases that they emit (unless investments are made to reduce this impact), and will affect decisions on whether to invest in new plants or maintain existing facilities. Hence, a number of coal-fired power stations will have to close by 2023 or when they have exhausted their allocated 17,500 running hours.



See also:


IED Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), European Commission website


IED summary, European Commission website

The plants covered by the IED had three options:

1. opt-in to the IED and satisfy the emissions requirements as of 1 January 2016;

2. opt-in via the Transitional National Plan (TNP) and thereby gradually adjust to the new emissions requirements (plants in this case are subjected to an emissions allocation during the transitional period (between 1 January 2016 and 30 June 2020) and - at the end of the period - could either opt in to the IED or limit their operating hours to 1,500 per year;

3. Opt-out from the IED, and thereby limit the running hours to 17,500 between 2016 and 2023 (these plants will be forced to close when the hours are exhausted or by the end of 2023, whichever is reached first).

Chapter II (Articles 10 to 27) of the IED deals with special provisions for activities listed in Annex I of the IED. Articles in this Chapter relate to obligations of the operator, applications for permit, BAT and BAT reference documents, permit conditions, emission limit values, equivalent parameters and technical measures, monitoring requirements, general binding rules, environmental quality standards, developments in best available techniques, changes by operators to installations, reconsideration and updating of permit conditions by the competent authority, site closure and remediation, inspections, access to information and public participation, access to justice, transboundary issues and emerging techniques. 
Chapter III (Articles 28 to 41) of the IED deals with special provisions for combustion plants and primarily recasts the LCP Directive. The various articles in this Chapter relate to scope, aggregation rules, emission limit values, desulphurization rate, transitional national plan, limited life derogation, small isolated systems, district heating plants, geological storage of carbon dioxide, malfunction or breakdown of the abatement equipment, monitoring, compliance, multi-fuel firing combustion plants and implementing rules. 

Articles 13 to 16 of the IED require that BAT reference documents are the reference for setting permit conditions and that emission limit values do not exceed the emission levels associated with the best available techniques as described in those BAT reference documents. 

Competent authorities will be in a position to grant derogations, in specific cases, to set less strict emission limit values associated with the best available techniques as described in the BAT reference documents. Such derogations may only apply where an assessment shows that the achievement of emission levels associated with the best available techniques as described in BAT conclusions would lead to disproportionately higher costs compared to environmental benefits due to the geological location or the local environmental conditions of the installation concerned or the technical characteristics of the installation concerned. Such derogations and their justification will be required to be made available to the public. 

It should be borne in mind that emission limit values (ELV) set out in Annex V part 1 and 2 of the IED for existing and new plant are the minimum required and application of BAT may result in tighter ELVs. It follows, ELVs no less stringent than those in Annex V of the IED must be set in permits. But the requirements in Chapter II of the Directive also apply and may in some cases compel ELVs more stringent than those in Annex V.

Article 21 of the IED introduces a requirement for permit conditions to be reconsidered, and where necessary, updated to ensure compliance with the Directive. The reconsideration must take into account all the new or updated BAT conclusions applicable to the installation and adopted since the permit was granted or last renewed. Such a review and update to be undertaken within 4 years of publication of the BAT reference document, relating to the main activity of an installation.

A plant's permit will also be varied to reflect its passage into the Transitional National Plan (TNP) and then varied again from the expiry of TNP on 30th June 2020, or from the date of the plant's exit from the TNP if earlier. 

In Article 30 and Annex V, the IED sets more stringent emission limit values, aligned with best available techniques, for certain categories of combustion plants and pollutants.

The IED requires new large combustion plants to meet strict emissions limits for nitrogen and sulphur oxides and particulates from 7 January 2013. New combustion plants become subject to Chapter III from 7 January 2013. Existing large combustion plants do not become subject to any of the requirements in Chapter III until 1 January 2016 (Article 30). Until that date, they remain subject to the relevant requirements in the LCP Directive. Up to June 2020, Member States may define transitional plans with declining annual caps for nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide and dust particles (Article 32). Industrial installations that are scheduled to close by the end of 2023 do not need to upgrade (Article 33).

The IED requests Member States to actively promote emerging techniques. In Article 3(14), the IED defines and introduces the term, "emerging technique" as a novel technique that could provide a higher general level of protection of the environment or higher cost savings than existing best available techniques. In addition, the Directive, in Article 15 provides the competent authority with the option to grant temporary derogations from emission levels associated with the best available techniques as described in the BAT reference documents to enable an operator to test and use emerging techniques which might provide for higher level of environmental protection.


IED and the EU ETS Directive



IED Directive, Article 9


Emission of greenhouse gases

1. Where emissions of a greenhouse gas from an installation are specified in Annex I to Directive 2003/87/EC in relation to an activity carried out in that installation, the permit shall not include an emission limit value for direct emissions of that gas, unless necessary to ensure that no significant local pollution is caused. 

2. For activities listed in Annex I to Directive 2003/87/EC, Member States may choose not to impose requirements relating to energy effi­ciency in respect of combustion units or other units emitting carbon dioxide on the site.

3. Where necessary, the competent authorities shall amend the permit as appropriate.

4. Paragraphs 1 to 3 shall not apply to installations which are temporarily excluded from the scheme for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading within the Union in accordance with Article 27 of Directive 2003/87/EC. 



Permits granted under IED for installations covered by Directive 2003/87/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 October 2003 establishing a scheme for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading within the Community do not include an emission limit value for direct emissions of the greenhouse gases subject to Directive 2003/87/EC. The reason for such an arrangement is to avoid duplication of regulation, since emissions of greenhouse gases are under the EU environmental rules managed by market based mechanism, and not by rigid emission limit values (ELV).


Definition of the  combustion plant - “common stack" 


It is noteworthy, IED conditions apply at a plant (stack) level while BAT applies at a unit level within a plant, at a plant level and at an overall installation level.

Under the "common stack" definition of "combustion plant", existing plants whose waste gases are, in the view of the competent authority, discharged through a common stack must be considered as a single plant for the purposes of the Directive. Accordingly, when a group of boiler discharge their waste gases through a common stack, the term "existing combustion plant" should be interpreted as that group of boilers.

When only one boiler vents through one stack, an existing plant should be interpreted as that boiler (an example given by the UK environment agencies).


IED timelines for transposition


The IED was required to be transposed into law by Member States by 7 January 2013 (Article 80). Certain provisions of the IED had specific implementation dates:
- implementation from 7 January 2013 in respect of any installation new after that date,
- implementation from 7 January 2014 in respect of installations already in existence before 7 January 2013 (except large combustion plants),

- existing large combustion plants do not become subject to the requirements of Chapter III of the IED until 1 January 2016 remaining until that date subject to the relevant requirements of Directive 2001/80/EC, and

- implementation by 7 July 2015 in respect of industrial activities not subject to the current IPPC Directive (2008/1/EC).


Further perspectives 


On 5 April 2022 European Commission presented a new Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2010/75/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 November 2010 on industrial emissions (integrated pollution prevention and control) and Council Directive 1999/31/EC of 26 April 1999 on the landfill of waste (COM(2022) 156 final/2, 2022/0104 (COD)) and on 16 March 2023 the Council reached agreement on amendments to the above proposal. 

Council press release of 16 March 2023 accentuates that in their general approach member states amended the Commission’s draft to extend the scope of the directive to intensive livestock farms with higher Live Stock Unit (LSU) numbers than 350 LSU for cattle and pigs, 280 LSU for poultry and 350 LSU for mixed farms. Extensive farms would be excluded. The new rules would be applied progressively starting with the largest farms.

Member states agreed to add mining activities into the scope of the directive. They introduced a threshold of 500 tonnes of production capacity per day for non-energy minerals and ores produced on an industrial scale. Member States excluded gypsum from the scope of the directive and included a threshold for hydrogen produced through electrolysing of water.

The general approach introduced the flexibility needed for member states to adapt the provisions on penalties and compensations in case of health damages to their different national legal systems.

Member states introduced a derogation from the emission limit values associated with best available techniques in the event of a crisis leading to severe disruption or shortage of supply of energy or essential resources, material or equipment – under strict conditions.

The general approach includes a derogation limited in time for combustion plants that are part of a small isolated system, not interconnected to the mainland energy grid. The aim is to give them enough time to establish interconnecting grids, in order to ensure energy security.

The general approach specifies the objectives for the innovation centre for industrial transformation and emissions (INCITE) proposed by the Commission. It also clarifies many other parts of the proposal and strives to reduce administrative burden for operators and national authorities.

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