Greening coal-based power: Govt must seriously mull over shutting old, polluting plants

An analysis by the Council for Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) posits India can save upto $1.2 billion year if shuts down 30 gigawatts (GW) of its old coal-based thermal power plants and runs newer ones for longer hours than the current rate.

Apart from cost-savings on 42 million tonnes of coal that would have been otherwise utilised, there are obvious financial gains from the environmental impact. The cost avoided in terms of mandated pollution-control measures that are pending will also provide a boost. It will help address under-utilisation of power-generation capacity and free up investment in cleaner energy sources.

The government (both states and the Centre) must summon the political will to act against inefficient coal-based plants. On the contrary, they seem only too willing to cut the polluters significant slack. On April 1, the Centre notified the Environment Protection (Amendment) Rules that push the deadline for GHG-emitting coal-fired thermal power plants (TPPs) on compliance with the emission norms.

The norms were announced in 2015, with a 2017 adoption projected at the time. But, litigation managed to push the deadline several times, and it was last (before the April 2021 extension) set at 2022. However, only a third of the TPPs have undertaken any meaningful action so far.

And with mere months to the deadline, the government pushed the deadline—upto 2024-25 in some cases. What’s worse is that some plants that are scheduled to retire—that is, they are much older than the rest—have been given a later deadline. So, in a perverse way, the worse polluters will be allowed to pollute for longer.

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