India faces a huge energy deficit, with millions of households without power for basic lighting or cooking, and coal power is essential for the next few decades to resolve this energy crisis, to address the issue of energy access, which is just as important as the environmental problems of unclean power.
Centre for Science and Environment believes that we need to push for renewable—not because we can afford to do without coal, but because this source of energy provides us the option to leapfrog to decentralised and off-grid power. But equally, and perhaps even more, important is to clean up our coal power so that it does not destroy the environment and take human lives. In this background, CSE has two programs in its ‘Clean Coal-Power plants’ initiative – India Coal and Global Coal which aims to improve environmental performance of coal-based thermal power stations.
Centre for Science and Environment has been studying the Indian Coal thermal power sector since 2011. The work on thermal power sector was an off shoot of the millennium development goal projects of United Nations Development Program (UNDP) 'The Green Ratings Project (GRP)'. GRP selects an industrial sector, analyses the performance of a sample of individual industries in the sector which reflect the performance of the sector and recommends the government various measures to improve environmental performance. GRP’s last rating was “Coal-based thermal power” sector.
The report, which came out in 2015, revealed the sector's performance to be poor, and that the Indian Environment Ministry's pollution standards governing the environmental performance of these plants are lenient. The report spurred wide debates among policy makers, and later in the year, when COP was ongoing, Indian Environmental Ministry released stricter pollution control norms for the thermal power sector. A deadline of two years was given to implement the norms.
The India coal program of CSE tracks implementation status of the new emissions norms by MoEFCC.
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