CSE welcomes environment ministry's notification setting stricter standards for coal-based thermal power plants

  • Ministry of environment has notified new emission and water consumption standards for the thermal power sector

  • New standards for plants that are commissioned after 2016 will cut down emissions of particulate matter by 25 per cent, sulphur dioxide (SO2) by 90 per cent, nitrogen oxide (NOx) by 70 per cent and mercury by 75 per cent compared with existing state-of-the-art plants

  • Existing plants will need to meet standards tighter than they currently adhere to

  • CSE’s Green Rating Project recently released a report on the thermal power sector, finding most plants to be performing way below global standards

  • CSE welcomes the new standards; would like advanced pollution monitoring and online reporting to ensure the norms are followed by industry

NEW DELHI, December 23, 2015: Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has welcomed the steps taken by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) to tighten the pollution norms for coal-based power sector, which is one of the most polluting sectors of the Indian industry in India.

On Tuesday, the MoEF&CC announced it had published the notification in the Government of India gazette to tighten norms for emissions of particulate matter (PM), SO2, NOx and mercury and cut water use by coal-based thermal power plants. India currently has no standards for SO2, NOx and mercury emissions from this sector. The only standards that exist are for PM, which are quite lax compared with the global norms.

“The new regulations are a positive first step. However, strengthening our regulatory systems is critical to ensuring that these standards are strictly enforced. Effective implementation of advanced pollution monitoring technologies such as Continuous Emissions Monitoring Systems (CEMS) and online reporting is vital,” said Chandra Bhushan, Deputy Director General, CSE. He added what is urgently needed is additional compliance staff and skill-building in pollution control boards. “Compliance and enforcement can be made more effective by using new market-based tools such as incentives to cut pollution, emissions trading and steeper financial penalties for violations,” said Priyavrat Bhati, Director, Sustainable Industrialization.

Earlier this year, CSE had released its environmental rating of the coal-based thermal power sector under its Green Rating Project. Forty seven plants – totaling more than half of the nation’s capacity – were rated. The findings showed that the sector ranked poorly on all the parameters. The CSE rating report titled ‘Heat on Power’ had recommended tightening of pollution standards and water use. 

Of the total pollution from the industrial sector, coal-based power industry accounts for approximately 60 per cent of particulate emissions, 45-50 per cent of SO2 emissions, 30 per cent of NOx emissions and more than 80 per cent of mercury emissions. A reduction of these emissions from coal-based power plants will therefore go a long way in alleviating the health impacts of industrial air pollution, says a CSE analysis.

What are the new standards?

The power plants that are commissioned after January 1, 2017 will have to conform to a norm of 30 milligram per normal cubic metre (mg/Nm3) for PM and 100 mg/Nm3 for both SO2 and NOx; mercury norms have been set at 0.03 mg/Nm3.The new standards are expected to cut particulate emissions from plants commissioned after January 1, 2017 by 25 per cent; SO2 emissions by 90 per cent; NOx emissions by 70 per cent and mercury emissions by 75 per cent compared with existing state-of-the-art plants. 

For an existing industry-average plant, the emissions cut will also be significant. For instance, the PM norm for an average Indian power plant is 150 mg/Nm3. Under the new standards, existing plants will need to meet PM standards between 50-100 mg/Nm3. The impact will be even more pronounced for SO2, NOx and mercury emissions since these did not have norms.

The notification requires that plants that are established between 2003 and 2016, subsequent to the liberalization of the power sector, will need to meet slightly looser standards. Plants older than 2003 will need to meet relatively relaxed norms. “We believe lower standards for old units are acceptable given both technical hurdles and economic costs of installing pollution control equipment at these units,” said Bhati.  

CSE analysis says the new norms will require all existing cooling tower-based plants to restrict water consumption to 3.5 cubic metre per watt hour (m3/MWh). Plants which will be set up after January 1, 2017 have to achieve 2.5 m3/MWh. Also, all existing water-guzzling once-through-cooling (OTC) system plants will need to be replaced with cooling tower-based systems. This can have a remarkable reduction in freshwater withdrawal by thermal power plants – cumulatively, freshwater withdrawal could decrease from around 22 billion cubic metre in 2012 to around 4.5 billion cubic metre in 2017, an 80 per cent dip.


• For CSE’s report on coal-based power sector in India, please visit: http://www.downtoearth.org.in/coverage/coal-toll-48581

• For further information, please contact Souparno Banerjee (souparno@cseindia.org / 9910864339) of The CSE Media Resource Centre.