The Enel thermoelectric power plant of Porto Tolle is located on the Polesine Camerini Island at the Pila mouth of the Po (one of the Po River´s main mouths), in the middle of the Po Delta Regional Park (established in 1997) and at the border with a Special Protection Area and a Site of Community Importance .
Enel wants to convert the station currently using fuel oil to a coal-fired power plant.
The current power plant consists of 4 groups of generators (constructed between 1980 and 1984) with a total production capacity of 2.640 MW, able to generate about 8% of the electricity demand in Italy. Over the past decades, Enel has presented several plans to convert the plant. In 2002 Enel presented a project for the conversion to Orimulsion, a bitumen-based fuel, later shelved. In 2005 the company launched the project for the use of coal instead of oil fuel, in order to reduce the cost to produce energy and increase efficiency.
Environmental associations (Greenpeace, Legambiente, WWF) and the Porto Tolle local committee (Comitato Cittadini Liberi Porto Tolle) expressed strong opposition to the use of coal. The new 1.980 MW coal-fired plant would emit in the air more than 10.5 million tons of CO2 per year and other pollutants (nitrogen and sulphur oxides, fine and ultrafine dust, organic compounds, etc.). The polluting emissions would cover a range of several tens of kilometres. The project represents a real threat to the environment, the health of the citizens and the economy of the area.
The thermoelectric plant, almost in disuse since 2006, has already been the object of condemnations for environmental crimes (in 2006, 2009 and 2014) committed in the years of fuel oil functioning [see other comments]. Since 2005, the resistance of the associations and the local citizens, who have tried to hinder the process to convert the plant, has been growing (through legal actions, demonstrations, occupations) and has clashed with lobbying actions carried out by Enel to promote the new “clean coal” project, that would entail carbon capture and sequestration (see project details.) In 2009 the project received a positive Environmental Impact Assessment. In 2010 environmental associations and local committees presented an appeal to the TAR (Regional Administrative Tribunal) to annul the decree. The Tribunal rejected the appeal but resistance to the project continued and in 2010 the associations presented a new appeal to the Council of State, that was upheld in 2011.
The main contested point accepted by the Council of the State concerned the lack of assessment by the Ministry of the Environment of alternatives to coal, such as the use of methane gas. The Regional law establishing the park (1997) originally imposed for power plant fuel sources the use of methane gas or other alternative sources with equal or lower impact on the environment. Thereafter, the Veneto Region modified the regional law, adding a paragraph that admits the use of coal under certain conditions . The change allowed the State Council to issue a new sentence that unlocked the procedures for the plant conversion and restart the approval process for the project in 2012, taking into account the original plan approved in 2009.
Local committees and associations against the project expressed strong opposition to the new sentence, but in January 2014 a new reversal took place, the EIA Commission of the Ministry for the Environment gave a negative opinion and again blocked project to convert the Porto Tolle power plant to coal. Enel now needs to modify the project and present a new environmental impact study.
In september 2014 ENEL announced the will to stop the project.