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Centre likely to dilute emission norms for thermal power plants, relax deadline (downtoearth)

In yet another case of shifting goal posts and diluting strict norms, the Centre has reportedly decided to relax the December 2017 deadline for more than 400 thermal plants in the country to comply with the new emission norms notified in December 2015. It has also decided to dilute the standards it had set.

Since the new norms were notified more than a year ago, none of the thermal power plants has managed to comply with them, even though a recent study by the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment revealed that coal-fired power sector was one of the most resource wasteful and polluting sectors in the world.

See: Green Rating of Coal-based Thermal Power Plants

This non-compliance doesn’t echo the optimism Finance Minister Arun Jaitley expressed during his budget speech last week about promoting clean energy.

What’s the excuse for non-compliance?

In December 2015, the Environment Ministry had laid down emission norms for Nitrogen and Sulphur oxides (NOx and SOx) for thermal plants. Stricter limits for particulate matter (PM) emission and water consumption were also fixed. However, Ravindra Kumar Verma, chief of the Central Electricity Authority (CEA), admits that meeting revised environmental norms by December 2017 “may not be feasible”. The power utilities now demand relaxation of standards as they are not ready to resolve technological issues, take up huge civil work, incur capital cost and create enough space in existing plants to accommodate green technologies.

This non-compliance, however, is not entirely surprising since there was a stiff resistance from within the industry to this decision to raise the bar.

An informal survey by the CSE, six months after the notification was issued, showed that many companies have little idea about the equipment needed by their plants to meet the new standards.

Even before the norms were notified, the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) wrote to the Environment Ministry stating that the proposed norms were “much more stringent than (those) prescribed by World Bank and even China in some parameters”. In a separate response to the draft, the Union Power Ministry argued that proposed emission norms for thermal plants in India are tougher than China.

Months after notification, the NTPC sought relaxation although its objections to the draft emission standards were set aside by the Environment Ministry prior to notification.

According an NTPC spokesperson, the NTPC shall formalise the action plan after the Central Electricity Authority of India (CEA) submits a phasing plan for implementation of new environmental plan by March 2017.

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