New CSE report advocates incentives and penalties for getting clean power

‘First Run’ urges incentivising power stations that meet revised pollution norms and penalising those that don’t

By DTE Staff
Published: Tuesday 20 October 2020
The Kolaghat Thermal Power Station in Purba Medinipur, West Bengal. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A new report by Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has called for incentivising coal-based power plants that comply with revised pollution norms and penalising those that don’t.

Meeting Emission Norms: CSE working paper on penalty and incentive mechanisms for coal-based power plants will be released in a webinar October 21, 2020.

The report deals with the concept of ‘first-run’ that incentivises cleaner power stations to run on priority. “This could serve as a spur and bring in urgency in the coal-based power sector to abide by the 2015 emission standard deadlines,” the report says.

The Indian government has taken a number of measures to encourage clean power generation. It has, for instance, asked for the scheduling of renewable energy generating plants on a compulsory basis irrespective of their cost.

The Electricity Act, 2003 under Section 86 (e) asks the state electricity regulatory commission to ensure distribution companies purchase the quantity of electricity that they (renewable energy companies) produce to satisfy demand. Accordingly, the state and central electricity grid code regulations have incorporated such clean plants as ‘must-run’


Coal, however, continues to be the bulk energy provider in India. It makes up 205,312 MW or 89 per cent of the thermal power capacity. Coal-based power is one of the most resource-intensive and polluting industries.

The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change had introduced stricter environmental standards for coal-based thermal power plants (TPP) December 7, 2015, to contain the pollution caused by coal-based power plants.

This was done under the Environment Protection Act, 1986. All TPPs were required to comply with the revised standards within a period of two years — by December 2017.

“The industry has been giving excuses and the deadline has been pushed to 2022. CSE analysis reveals that even this deadline will not be met by 65 per cent of the installed capacity. It is however to be noted that 35 per cent of the capacity is still striving to meet the norms,” the report says.

It goes onto list a number of plants that are complying with the norms to contain pollution due to particulate matter, nitrous oxide and sulphur dioxides.

“To encourage stations complying with the norms, CSE recommends that the plants complying with the norms will be called the ‘FIRST-RUN’ plants,” the report suggests.

The report urges that the state pollution control board give a certificate to such plants to certify they are complying with the December 2015 environmental norms.

First-run power stations should also be ranked and power procured from them on priority after must-run plants.

Source: CSE

“This can serve as an incentive to motivate power stations which are materializing efforts to meet the new emission norms at the earliest. Fear of no operation or minimal operation can also drive the rest of the non-complying power stations to meet the norms at the earliest,” it says.

Implementing the first-run concept can ensure two primary benefits, according to the report: The supply of green and cleaner power across states; and cleaner power at cheaper cost due to cutting down medical and other expenses.

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