Out of total capacity of 166472 MW which has to install FGD by December 2022, only 1320 MW has been done till now
As India continues to grapple with unprecedented air pollution levels, one of the largest polluters, thermal power plants aren’t seeming to make serious efforts to reduce emissions.
On 7th December, 2015, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MoEFCC) issued an emission standard notification for all the coal fired power plants in India. They were expected to retrofit and reduce pollution emissions within by December 7, 2017. As discussed in the first part of the story, Association of Power Producers (APP) argued extensively and secured an extension for implementation of the norms running from 2019 to 2022.
In 2018, in an ongoing case MC Mehta Vs Union of India and Others, in the Supreme Court of India, Ministry of Power (MoP) and CEA (Central Electricity Authority) put forth a new phasing plan for installing Flue Gas Desulphurisation (FGD). According to this, few of the coal based power plants based in Delhi-NCR and Southern region were given December 2019 as the deadline, while others needed to comply until the end of 2022.
So, what is the current status?
According to figures released by the Central Electricity Authority in November, 2019, out of total capacity of 166472 MW out of total capacity of 166472 MW which has to install FGD by December 2022, only 1320 MW has been done till now. Even this 1320 MW has been done by Mahatma Gandhi Thermal Power Plant, owned by CLP India Power Limited in Haryana.
On July 3, 2018 Ministry of Power filed an affidavit mentioning that, “Installation of FGD in a unit takes about 3 years time from the date of order placement”. Also, in a RTI response National Thermal Power Corporation Limited (NTPC) mentioned time frame of 18-57 months for installing FGD at five power plants under its operation.
As per the reports, bids have been awarded for 35560 MW capacity, which amounts to around 22 % of the total capacity to be retrofitted till December 2022. Assuming an aggressive average time frame of 2 years between award date and installation FGD, out of total capacity of 99978 MW capacity which has to retrofit by December 2021 only 1320 MW has installed FGD and only 17330 MW has awarded the bids (including FGD installed for 1320 MW).
Fig: Central Electricity Authority FGD Implementation Report, November, 2019
A close look at sectoral bids suggests that Central Sector still haven’t awarded bids for 20510 MW out of 53350. This amounts to around 40% of the total capacity. State Sector has only awarded bids for 1000 MW out of 51885 MW at Uttar Pradesh Rajya Vidhyut Utpadan Nigam (UPRVNL). And, the Private Sector has only awarded bids for 2720 MW. Out of which 1320 at CLP India Pvt. Ltd. has already been installed.
Such a sluggish progress is also indicative of the fact that more than 50% of the thermal power plants will not be able to install Flue Gas Desulphurisation even by 2022.
Experts are of believe that coal fired power plants, who have deliberately missed the deadlines must be penalised. Heavy fines be imposed on them. If needed, these non-compliant power plants shut down and should set a precedent for others who do not fall in line with the emission norms.
“India is witnessing severe air pollution in the world. Both public health and economy is being affected. At such a juncture, when lives are at stake the Government of India must exercise zero tolerance policy and impose strict penalties for power plants not adhering to emission standards,” said Ritika Mehrotra, senior research fellow at Tata Institute of Social Sciences.
Commenting on the nexus of politics, media and polluters Swati Vashisth, an independent energy analyst asks, “This [Power Plants not adhering to emission norms] should have been the biggest news in the country. Licenses of these companies should have been cancelled. But that does not happen in India. Why?”
“..Because the people in politics have their stakes in power plant companies too. They also have close links with the media owners. The trio are well entangled with each other, that is the reason why we do not see strictest actions being taken on polluters despite the fact that air pollution is causing public health emergency in the country,” she added.
However, India’s Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) seem to be strict on the non-compliance. In a letter dated November 13, as assessed by Reuters, CPCB’s chair wrote to the head of the Panipat Thermal Power Station (PTPS) citing a host of alleged violations and gave it a show cause notice for non-compliance.
Rohin Kumar is an independent journalist