The revised notification is in favor of operating another old efficient coal power plant, which may continue indefinitely in case of payment of nominal fines.
On April 1, 2021, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MOEF and CC) extended the deadline for compliance with the emission policy for the lion’s share of coal-fired power plants in India by another three to four years. This is the third amendment to the notification first published in 2015.
Following the 2015 notification, all power plants were originally given a December 2017 deadline to follow the rules. However, as per the deadline of 201, the Union Ministry of Power has submitted another phased plan for MOF and CC, requesting an extension of seven more years by 2024 to comply with the rules.
After various discussions, the power plants were given a five-year extension in phases by December 2022.
It has already taken serious steps to meet the 2021 emissions regulations and one-third of the plants in 2015. It was expected by various stakeholders that MOEF and CC would take a tough stance on unsuitable plants.; But through recent amendments it is clear that the central government is very concerned for the health of its citizens and very supportive of polluters.
The new notification is drafted to demonstrate how serious the MOEF and CC negligence is; A detailed analysis of the notification concluded that the Ministry of Environment had only licensed coal-fired thermal power plants to continue further pollution by imposing coal fines.
Sunita Narayan, director general of Delhi’s Science and Environment (CSE), said the amount of money that companies have to spend on setting up pollution control equipment is very low.
What does the new notification say?
According to the amendment, power plants are divided into three categories:
- The division consists of cities within a radius of 10 km or a population of ten million in the National Capital Region (NCR). The power plants included in this section must meet the regulations by the following year (i.e. December 2022).
- Category B plants that are within a 10 km radius of severely contaminated areas or acquired cities. They have to meet the criteria by 2023/2025.
- The remaining plants are kept in the KC section and are extended to 2024/2025.
The 2021 Amendment introduced a penal system for the first time. Section Chapter ‘Maximum 20 paisa per unit for violation of the period of retired plants; 15 paise per unit for trees in section B; And 10 paise per unit for them in Division C.
A fine of 20 paise per unit has been fixed for retired plants.
CSE researchers evaluate new circulars. The assessment revealed that about 26 per cent of the total capacity under the new classification falls into this category and the rules should be followed by 2022.
The B2 category is down 28 percent, which should follow after 2023. A huge capacity of 44 percent – 722.5 gigawatts is one of the two plants that fall into the category, which has been given an extension of time until 2024/22222.
Nitish Kumar Yadav, director of CSE’s industrial unit, said the new expansion meant that coal-fired power would now remain polluted for two to three years after an increase of about 2222 per cent.
Delhi’s polluting power plants have given up pollution
No explanation has been given for the rationale behind the selection of the 10 km radius as the area of influence. According to experts, pollutants released by coal-fired thermal power plants can travel 250 to 300 kilometers.
Strict measures need to be taken in Delhi’s airspace to fight toxic air pollution. This is why the Central Pollution Control Board’s December 2017 notice, which extended the duration of most trees by five years, was a notable exception: a power plant about 300 km from Delhi-NCR.
These power plants were instructed to meet the initial requirements by December 2019 instead of the 2022 deadline. A 200 km radius was decided for Delhi’s air pollution. In a 2012 report by the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur, power plants were said to play a significant role in the capital’s air pollution.
There were 11 coal-fired plants in the radius identified by the CPCB, five in Haryana, four in Punjab and two in Uttar Pradesh.
However, as per the revised notification, six of the 11 plants (Guru Hargobind TPS, Rajiv Gandhi TPS, Talwandi Sabo TPS, Rajpura TPS, Ropar TPS, Jamunanagar TPS) will now be under C section and five more trees will be expanded. 2024/2025 is likely to be included and a deadline of 2022 will be given.
Weak fines have been introduced
The 2021 amendment introduced punitive measures for disobedience for the first time. In terms of cost per MW, the maximum fine of any plant in this category can be 11 lakh / MW.
For Section C trees, which have already been given extended deadlines, a fine of Rs 26 crore will be levied on 60 plant load factors of 500 MW plants. In terms of cost per MW, it will be only 5 lakh / MW.
Since fines are generation-based, operating low capacity (usually older plants) also reduces fines for smaller non-loyal plants. For example, a 250 MW plant in Division C operates at a 40 per cent plant load factor, pays only Rs eight crore in the second year and beyond.
Yadav said that creating such a formula to decide on compensation would break the whole purpose of the dictatorship.
Compensation designed for contaminants
Trees in the B and C divisions, which have already been given many delayed deadlines, are asked to allow pollution between 2023-2024 and to pay the minimum loss for three years to follow the rules?
It would be easier to pay a fine of less than five lakh / MW on plants, especially in Division C, instead of investing in expensive technologies like flue-gas emissions at a cost of 45 lakh / MW.
Sonaram Ramanathan, deputy program manager at CSE, said the trees would pollute the environment by paying only less fines as they are a small part of the annual expenditure.
Licensed to kill old plants
The current amendment has created a new category for retired plants without mentioning what retired plants are. This is for very leisurely, non-skilled polluting plants.
Older units planned to retire by 2025 are exempted from fulfilling the rules by simply submitting a formal deposit to the CPCB and Central Electricity Authority for exemption due to retirement.
This is in contrast to the previous government’s position on older polluting plants. Yadav said in the 2021 budget, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had made it clear that utilities run by old thermal power plants would be asked to shut down if they emitted more than the pre-determined norm, Yadav said.
Forget about shutting down these trees, they are now exempt by 2025 following this policy and can do more by paying compensation.
Old and contaminated plants that should have been retired were allowed to operate indefinitely by paying nominal fines. This relaxation of the MOF and CC encourages them to continue their activities, which pose a threat to human health. Yadav said it clearly enhanced his position against the old polluting plant policy.
Why did you criticize the implementation of the 2015 emissions rules?
In 2015, after several delays, the emission standards of power plants were announced. These standards were effective for air purification because the thermal power sector contributes a lot to the country’s pollution burden and the implementation of these emissions regulations was expected to reduce this burden by 40-50 percent.
It was important to prevent local pollution in the cities and more importantly in the areas where these trees are located.
The period has been extended from two to three years. However, expansion is not a concern; Narayan said the fatally flawed notification was that it was supplied to compliant polluters, Narayan said.
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