Power plants in Delhi-NCR will fail to comply fully with revised pollution control norms by the deadline – says CSE

Ministry of Power had committed to the Supreme Court that the plants will meet the norms by December 2019. CSE analysis says only one-fourth of the capacity will manage to do so 

  • Pollution from thermal power plants in the vicinity of Delhi (300-km radius) is one of the reasons for Delhi‘s toxic air
  • CSE survey shows most plants have made little progress, with neither the Central nor the state governments monitoring implementation
  • CSE calls for tougher push along with penalties to ensure compliance by the deadline;the move will go a long way in improving Delhi’s air quality 

New Delhi, February 18, 2019: A new survey and analysis done by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) says coal-based power plants in Delhi-NCR may not be doing their bit to improve Delhi’s air quality. One of the contributors to the toxic cocktail in Delhi’s air, these power plants are still far away from meeting the pollution control norms, the deadline for which is December 2019. These norms / regulations were announced by the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) in December 2015 and have already been extended by two years for power plants in the Delhi-NCR region. 

Given the serious state of non-compliance by the plants even after three years, the Ministry of Power had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court committing to the new timelines. 

CSE had assessed the sector’s compliance preparedness in July 2018 and found that most plants had not even conducted preliminary due diligence to assess pollution control needs to help them meet the norms. It did the second survey and analysis in February 2019 and found that the situation remains the same. 

Some of the key findings:

  • Three-fourth of the capacity (10.1 gigawatt, or GW) will find it difficult to meet the deadline for SO2. Of this, tendering is still going onfor 4.9GW of the installed capacity, while primary studies are going on for 7 GW capacity -- 1.4 GW of the capacity (15 per cent of the total) has made no plans at all yet.
  • 2GW of the capacity (24 per cent of the total) has done nothing to meet the NOxstandards – neither has it installed appropriate pollution control measures nor has it made any plans to do so. 8.9 GW have installed primary control measures such as low-NOx burners and over-fire air dampers; another 1 GW capacity have put up some features of primary control and intend to install low-NOx burners.
  • 67 per cent of the installed capacity (8.8GW) is compliant with the present status. Another 9 per cent (1.2 GW) capacity is at various stages of ESP upgradation and will be able to comply with the December 2019 deadline. The remainder 24 per cent (3.2 GW) capacity will not be able to comply with the deadline, since it has no concrete plans.
  • Overall, the worst offenders are plants owned by Haryana and Punjab state generating companies, which have made minimal progress. 

Says Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general, CSE: “This lack of progress is unconscionable. Despite the pressure of the Supreme Court, more than three-fourths of the installed capacity in the region is in no position to finish the implementation process by December 2019. This reflects a lack of will by the government to ensure compliance with regulations that it had announced. Regulators must take meaningful action in the region to ensure that a strong message goes out across the country.” 

Coal-based power plants totaling 13.2 GW operate within 300 km of the National Capital Territory of Delhi and are a significant contributor to Delhi’s air pollution. Currently, these stations emit 57 tonnes/day of particulate matter (PM), 686 tonnes/day of SO2, and 304 tonnes/day of NOx. “With abatement steps in place, power plant emissions will reduce by 29 per cent for PM, 66 per cent for SO2, and 21 per cent for NOx. Complying with the new norms is, therefore, critical to improve Delhi’s air,” says PriyavratBhati, advisor (energy), CSE. 

The CSE survey revealed several challenges to the implementation process.

  • Emissions data needs to be accurate,since it can result in inappropriate technology selection.
  • Management processes are inefficient, delayingcost approval and tendering.
  • Pollution control boards are not monitoring implementation plans of power companies
  • Electricity regulatory commissions have not been granting in-principle approvals to power stations for the planned investment, which derails the installation projects. 

Definitive action needed

CSE has urged the government totrack the progress in implementation to ensure compliance by the deadline of December 2019. Its key recommendations are:

  • Regulators should ask power plants to give committed implementation plans, which they should closely Progress reports should be placed in the public domain every six months.
  • Electricity regulatory commissions (ERCs) should expedite the approval of petitionsby power plants seeking clearance to invest in pollution control technology.
  • Penalties should be charged for delays against the deadlines, both interim and as well as the final.
  • The old, polluting thermal power stations that are planned to be shut should be directed to give a committed decommissioning plan immediately. 

For access to the CSE surveys and other material, please contact Sukanya Nair of The CSE Media Resource Centre, 8816818864 / sukanya.nair@cseindia.org