India delays anti-pollution rules for coal power plants again

India’s environment ministry delayed anti-pollution guidelines for coal-fired power plants further, extending the compliance deadline by as long as two years.

Plants located close to populated cities, including capital New Delhi, will now have to meet the standards by December 2022, a seven-year extension from the original plan to cap toxic emissions, including particulate matter, sulfur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen, according to a March 31 notification.

Units close to critically-polluted areas have until end-2023 to comply, while those located in less polluted smaller towns can wait on retrofits until the end of 2024. Plants approaching closure have been exempt from the exercise, according to the notification.

Most Indian coal-fired generators have resisted installing the retrofits, citing financial stress and lack of clarity on recovery of their investments. They have found support from the power ministry, which successfully pushed for extending the original deadline and later made a case to the environment ministry for sparing plants in areas with good ambient air quality.

The cost of retrofits has added to concerns of owners of coal-fired plants that their electricity prices will become less competitive against renewable power, whose prices have been declining.

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