CSE cautions against extending the deadline for meeting emission norms for the coal-based thermal power sector

Calls for bringing in an effective incentive-penalty based system 

In January, Union ministry of power had urged the environment ministry to extend the deadline for polluting coal-based power plants till 2024 (from the current 2022) 

Plants identifiedas ‘first-run’ power stations by CSE are the most likely to implement the norms – incentivise these plants, says CSE 

Rest of the stations have been procrastinating -- theymust be penalised 

New Delhi, February 8, 2021: Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has cautioned the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEF&CC) against extending the deadline of meeting emission norms for coal-based thermal power plants in the country. 

The Union ministry of power has requested the MoEF&CC to extend the deadline from 2022 to 2024; as per media reports, the environment ministry might be working on a graded plan to do this. 

“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,” points out SunitaNarain, director general, CSE. 

In January 2021, the power ministry had sent in its request to extend the deadlines allotted to 448 operational power generating units;the proposed extension is up to two years from their existing deadlines. The extension was sought on the account of uncertainties and delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and other issues like import restrictions, lack of local availability of components, liquidity crunch in the power sector, credit refusals due to high stress in the sector, regulatory delays etc. 

A week before this, the power ministry had argued for a dilution of the sulphur dioxide norms, citing an incomplete study by the Central Electricity Authority (CEA). Says Narain: “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-basedpower plants.” 

Coal-fired power plants are some of the most polluting industries in the country. They account for over 60 per cent of the total particulate matter (PM) emissions from all industry, as well as 45 per cent of the SO2, 30 per cent of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and over 80 per cent of the mercury emissions. 

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

CSE’s recently released report (https://www.cseindia.org/meeting-emission-norms-10424) 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 MW capacity meets this criteria. CSE recommends fixed charges be reimbursed infull 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 advises 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 planstill 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. 

In this report, CSE has urged government to prefer buying electricity from the ‘Yellow’ category plants. 

“Most of the Centrally-run power stations – such as NTPC, NLC and DVC – have shown progress in their efforts to meet the deadline, and have been included in the ‘first run’ list prepared by CSE. The laggards largely consist of privately-run power stations, such as Lanco, Sembcorp, etc. Instead of lobbying for these stations, the power ministry should support the MoEF&CC in implementing the norms,” says Soundaram Ramanathan, deputy programme manager, industrial pollution unit, CSE.

  • For accessing CSE’s studies and analysis of the Indian coal-based thermal power sector, please visit cseindia.org

  • For any other assistance, contact Sukanya Nair of The CSE Media Resource Centre, nair@cseindia.org, 8816818864