The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has observed in a recent study that close to 70 per cent of India's coal-based power generation will miss the emission norms that were to be met by 2022.
The report comes at a time when India has opened doors for private investors for commercial coal mining and sale in open market. Also, recently, as this paper reported, the Central government is also planning to do away with mandatory washing of coal before it is transported to thermal plants to reduce emissions.
"Our assessment finds that even after seven years since the notification and even after the agreed five-year extension given to this sector in 2017, most of the installed coal-fired capacity will not be compliant with crucial sulphur dioxide (SO2) standards by 2022,” said Sunita Narain, director general, CSE, said
India introduced new emission and water use norms for the coal-based thermal power units in 2015. The deadline suggested then was December 2017. CSE pointed out that the thermal power industry “began a sustained campaign to first obstruct and prevaricate, and then to dilute and delay the implementation of the norms.”
After missing that deadline, the new target has now been set to 2022 for the implementation of the emission norms. When implemented, the norms can lead to a significant reduction in emissions and dip in water use by the sector, said CSE in its report titled, ‘Coal-based power norms: Where do we stand today’.
Major pollutants from coal-fired thermal power plants are oxides of nitrogen (NOx), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and particulate matter (PM). Thermal power units are also extremely water-intensive. Estimates by CSE indicate, thermal units are responsible for 70 per cent of the total freshwater withdrawal by all industries. They also account for over 60 per cent of total industrial emissions of particulate matter; 45 per cent of SO2; 30 per cent of NOx; and more than 80 per cent of mercury, in the country.
In the case of PM, 7 GW of thermal capacity is compliant, while upgrades are underway in another 14 Gw.
In the case of SO2, 16 GW capacity has complied; 32 GW has awarded tenders; 125 GW is still at the preliminary stages of feasibility study and tenders; and another 9 GW has no plans for installation. It is highly unlikely for units still at preliminary stages or with no plan to meet the 2022 deadline even if they awarded the tenders now, it said.
“It takes at least two years for a station to complete FGD construction. Hence, a coal-based power project with a 2022 deadline should have begun construction by 2019,” the report observed. Under the guidelines of the Central Pollution Control Board, close to 50 gigawatt of thermal power capacity needs to install emission control systems at their plants. FGD or Flue Gas Desulphurization (FGD) is installed at the power generation units to reduce emission.
According to a submission made by private power generators, FGD cost is around Rs 40 Lakh per MW.
CSE said, centre-owned plants appear which are leading in implementation of SO2 norms, followed by privately-owned ones. State-owned units have made no progress on implementation – only one plant has awarded tenders so far.
India’s total installed power generation capacity stands at 367 gigawatt. Coal continues to be the bulk energy provider, making up 205 GW or 89 per cent of the thermal power capacity. “We cannot accept that we will continue to use coal without emission control. We want growth post-lockdown, but it has to be a growth which comes with our right to clean air. This must be equally important,” said the report.