Coal-fired utilities around New Delhi were still operating on Wednesday despite threats from government authorities to close them down if they had not installed retrofit equipment to curb air pollution, industry estimates showed.equipment to cut emissions of sulfur oxides by the end of last year.
A total of 47.95 gigawatts thermal power capacity missed the 31 December deadline to install Flue Gas Desulphurization (FDG) units to minimise SO2 emissions, the estimates prepared by private power producers showed. These include coal-fired units in the national capital region, according to a PTI report.
Coal-fired power plants, which produce three-quarters of India's electricity, account for some 80 percent of industrial emissions of sulfur and nitrous-oxides, which cause lung diseases and smog.
Power plants were asked to install FGD units, which cut emissions of sulfur dioxides, in phases. In all 440 coal-fired plans that produce 166.5 GW have to comply with the regulation by December 2022. More than one-third of these had to retrofit equipment by December 2019.
The power plants that missed the deadline to cut emission levels across the country included 33 units with a total capacity of 18.12 GW in Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. Another 20 units with a total capacity of 11.3 GW are located in southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Tamil Nadu, the estimates showed.
In addition, seven units of capacity 8.04 GW operated by private firms located in Haryana and Punjab are expected to miss the deadline, the estimates showed.
Deadlines extended by two years
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) had previously set December 2017 as the deadline for meeting the emission standards but extended it by two years as the country adopted a phased approach for thermal power plants to comply with emission norms, which involve installing FGD units that cut emissions of sulfur dioxides.
If the plants are not compliant within the 31 December 2019 deadline, CPCB has the authority to take the necessary action as per the law and court guidance, industry sources said, according to PTI.
The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change had on December 7, 2015, brought out new norms for coal-based power stations to cut down emissions of particulate matter (PM10), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) to improve the air quality around power plants.
To meet the new emission norms, the installation of the FGD system was essential in new as well as existing thermal power plants.
Few plants comply with norm
Sources said a handful of plants had complied with the norm but most have missed the deadline. As many as 267 units, which produce 103.4 GW of power, have to be compliant between December 2019 and February 2022.
Three senior executives at companies operating power plants around New Delhi and facing an end-2019 deadline said they had not received direction on whether they could continue to run the plants having not installed the kit, according to Reuters.
Only one out of the 11 utilities in the national capital region had installed the equipment.
The government had already extended its December 2017 deadline for its utilities to meet the emissions standards—posing a further challenge to the authorities grappling with the pollution that can cause lung disease and blights air quality.
Officials from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), who had threatened a shut down for non-compliance, did not respond to repeated calls and text messages seeking comment.
Reuters reported last month that more than half of the country's coal-fired power plants and 94 percent of the coal-fired units ordered to retrofit equipment to curb air pollution would likely miss the phased deadlines.
The air quality index for Delhi, the worst affected major city, indicated “severe” conditions on Wednesday—like most days this winter—a potential risk for even healthy people.
Real-time data government data showed both power plants in the country’s largest state of Uttar Pradesh which had a 31 December deadline were operating. In Punjab, Vedanta-owned TSPL units were producing power, as were state-run plants at Ropar and Bhatinda.
Mohammed Shayin, managing director at northern Haryana state-run power generator HPGCL said all units other than ones under scheduled maintenance were operational, adding that the utility was “pleading” with federal authorities to extend the emissions deadline.
Private producers such as Vedanta and Larsen & Toubro Ltd argued for yet another extension to the deadline.
L&T-owned Nabha Power Ltd said it was “constrained to shut down both its units due to a delay in extension of timelines by the CPCB”.
Vedanta said it was “confident” that authorities “would take a considerate stand”.
“We shall shut the plant in case we get the directions from the CPCB or the environment ministry,” the company said.
--With agency inputs
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Updated Date: Jan 02, 2020 07:10:55 IST