SC refuses to extend pollution norms deadline for power producers

The association of power producers sought extension to deadline for meeting pollution norms to 2024 from 2022

By Vinay Trivedi
Published: Thursday 25 June 2020

The Supreme Court in its June 19, 2020 order rejected the request of Association of Power Producers (APP) to extend the 2022 deadline for meeting pollution norms by two years. 

Barely two years to the 2022 deadline for meeting pollution standards, at least 70 per cent power plants have so far not met the emission standards, according to Coal-based Power Norms report by Delhi-based think-tank Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

The norms, introduced in 2015, were:

  • About 10 per cent capacity (18,670 megawatt) has to meet SO2 norms by 2019 for some power plants. 
  • Of this, about 13,530 MW is located in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. However, till now, only one plant (1,320 MW) is currently complying with the SO2 norms and has installed and operationalised flue-gas desulfurisation (FGD)

The initial deadline was 2017, but was later extended to 2022 for most power plants. Some power plants, however, were given the deadline of 2019.

The bench said, “We are not inclined to allow the prayer made in the application. The learned counsel seeks to withdraw this application”. The application is, accordingly, dismissed as withdrawn.

An APP is a think tank of private power producers. 

CSE recommended:

With the increasing pollution levels in the country, we cannot afford to have further delays in implementation. In the coming years, India has to rely on coal for its energy security. Since, coal-fired power plants are one of the most polluting sectors, India’s thermal power sector must clean up their power generation and further extension of the deadlines is absolutely non-negotiable.

Among deadlines regarding thermal power plant pollution control norms for particulate matter, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, the matter for SO2 control deadline ws prominently discussed as FGD technology requires at least two-and-half years for installation.

FGD is used to remove SO2 from exhaust flue gases of fossil-fuel power plants.

The Central Pollution Control Board in February and May, 2020 levied an environmental compensation of Rs 18 lakh per month per non-compliant unit from January 1, 2020, to be paid to it by June 5. This was for power plants whose deadline was 2019 to meet pollution norms. 

NTPC approached the Supreme Court and submitted that it was already committed to meet pollution norms by 2021, one year ahead of the scheduled deadline. It added that the same had been submitted to the court before.

In the same order, however, the SC struck down penalty to the country’s largest power producing utility National Thermal Power Corporation Ltd (NTPC).

The amicus in the case also mentioned that NTPC made significant progress in the installation of FGD. The bench issued notice on NTPC’s application and stated that “recovery so far as regards to NTPC Ltd to remain stayed till the next date of hearing in July last week”.

One of the recommendations made in the CSE report was to introduce changes in the merit order dispatch system for an effective tool to incentivise cleaner plants and reward the best performers. It also talked about disincentivising units that did not adhere to the standards.

“The SC is right in rejecting the application of private power producers. NTPC has shown sincere efforts in meeting the new stringent standards. They need to disclose the reason for delay in meeting the norms at its Dadri unit,” said Nivit Kumar Yadav, senior programme manager, CSE.

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