* Porto Tolle plant conversion to coal depends on new laws
* Italy top court stopped Enel's coal conversion plan in May
* Enel committed to 2.5 bln euro conversion project
MILAN, July 7 Italy's biggest utility, Enel
, hopes to start its long-term project to convert a
major power plant to coal from fuel oil in June 2012, betting on
new laws to bypass a top court decision blocking the project.
Italy's top administrative court, the State Council, in May
cancelled government clearance for Enel's 2.5 billion euro
($3.58 billion) Porto Tolle conversion project which was opposed
by environmentalist groups.
"Enel is committed with ministries and regional authorities
to find a solution to start works. It is reasonable to think
that it would be possible to start works in June 2012, depending
on all necessary administrative procedures," an Enel spokesman
Authorities of the north-eastern region of Veneto, where the
Porto Tolle plant is located, have drafted a law which would
allow the conversion of oil-fuelled power plants to coal or any
other fuel if it cuts greenhouse gases emissions by 50 percent.
Enel hopes Italy's Environment and Industry Ministries would
give their approval to the new regional law by March next year,
the group's spokesman said.
Another boost to Enel's plans could come from Italy's new
austerity budget which includes a special measure permitting
conversion of oil-fuelled power stations to a clean coal
technology, Enel's Chief Executive Fulvio Conti said on
"Enel's will is to go ahead with the 2.5 billion euro
investment into Porto Tolle," the spokesman said.
Enel had planned to start at the end of this year converting
its 2,640 megawatt oil-fuelled Porto Tolle plant on the River Po
about 100 km from Venice, to use clean coal technology, part of
its drive to cut carbon emissions.
Coal-fired plants are a major source of carbon dioxide (CO2)
emissions and the project came under fire from environmentalist
Enel had also planned to invest another 1 billion euros in a
carbon capture and storage facility on the site to reduce its
Conversion works at Porto Tolle had been expected to last 72
months giving work to about 3,000 people. The plant's capacity
is expected to be cut to 1,980 MW and the facility would employ
about 1,000 people when the conversion is completed.
It took Enel about 6 years to get the Environment Ministry's
approval which was scrapped by the State Council.
(Reporting by Svetlana Kovalyova)