Deadline extension for coal power plants will harm air pollution fight: CSE

Calls for bringing in an effective incentive penalty-based system  

By DTE Staff
Published: Monday 08 February 2021

Extending the deadline of meeting emission norms for coal-based thermal power plants in the country will deal a blow to the fight against air pollution, Delhi-based think tank Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) warned February 8, 2021.

The Union power ministry had in January 2021 requested the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MoEF&CC) to extend this deadline from to 2024 from 2022; the latter may be working on a graded plan to do the same, according to media reports.

Sunita Narain, director general, CSE, said:

“Extending the deadline once again will have grave repercussions for the fight against air pollution. It will also mean a complete mockery of the Supreme Court and Indian regulators’ efforts to control pollution from the coal-based thermal power sector over the last five years.”

The Union power ministry had requested to extend the deadlines allotted to 448 operational power generating units. The extension was sought on the account of uncertainties due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic as well as other issues such as import restrictions, lack of local availability of components, liquidity crunch in the power sector, etc.

Narain added:

“The power ministry’s move seems to have been influenced by the industry’s consistent efforts to dilute and delay the norms. The industry is obviously not bothered about the health risks posed by pollution from these coal-based power plants.”

Coal-fired power plants account for over 60 per cent of the total particulate matter (PM) emissions from all industry, as well as 45 per cent of sulphur dioxide, 30 per cent of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and 80 per cent of mercury emissions.

“The power ministry’s request is nothing but rewarding those plants that have not taken adequate action on the 2015 notification till now. We request the MoEF&CC to consider our first run policy and incentivise plants that are meeting the norms and penalise units that are defaulting,” said Nivit Kumar Yadav, programme director, industrial pollution unit, CSE.

CSE’s recently released report has categorised coal-based thermal power stations into three categories on the basis of their compliance status with the new emission norms.

  • Yellow: Power stations that have awarded tenders and are likely to meet the targets, or those complying with the norms, fall in this category. According to CSE, 57,624 megawatt capacity meets this criteria. It recommended fixed charges be reimbursed in full to this category. This can serve as an incentive to motivate other power stations.
  • Orange: This includes plants of 140,940 MW capacity that are likely to miss the target. These stations are in the stage of tendering or doing a feasibility study. CSE advised that only 50 per cent of the fixed cost be reimbursed to these stations.
  • Red: Plants of 7,450 MW capacity that do not have any plans till now to meet the norms (and will definitely miss the target) come under this category. CSE advises no fixed cost be returned to these stations until they meet the norms.

CSE urged government to prefer buying electricity from the ‘Yellow’ category plants.

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