New Delhi: The environment ministry is likely to defer the implementation of the stringent emission norms that may have resulted in higher electricity tariffs, by two years to December 2019, in a move that would bring succour to nearly two-thirds of India’s power projects.
The ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) has decided to amend the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986, with the Environment (Protection) Amendment Rules, 2015, wherein the deadline to meet the strict norms for emissions of particulate matter (PM), sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury and reduced water usage by coal-fuelled thermal power plants was fixed as December 2017.
In India, the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China, 61% of the installed power generation capacity of 3,10,005 MW is fuelled by coal.
The Indian Express on 9 February reported that the government has decided to relax the December 2017 deadline and even dilute the standards it had set. The move to implement new standards has seen stiff resistance from electricity generation firms including state-owned NTPC Ltd. “Implementing the standards will result in (the price of) electricity generated from these projects going up by around 50 to 60 paise per unit...MoEFCC may extend the deadline to December 2019," said a person aware of the development, requesting anonymity.
According to estimates, the retrofitting cost of an old power project to meet the new standards will be around Rs1 crore per MW. For new projects, the cost may be around Rs50 lakh per MW.
Another person aware of the development, who also did not wish to be identified, said, “MoEFCC may be revisiting the guidelines for sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx) emitted by the thermal power projects given the stiff opposition by the developers due to electricity tariffs going up." India, the world’s third largest energy consuming economy after the US and China, plans to achieve 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022 as part of its commitments to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change adopted by 195 countries in Paris in December 2015.
Experts said a lot of effort has gone into devising strict emission standards for thermal power plants and the focus should now be on their implementation.
“So many efforts have gone into devising the strict emission standards for thermal power plants which are needed to rescue public health impact from toxic pollution. They (standards) should be now enforced without delay and the focus should be on enabling the roadmap for its implementation," said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director at the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment, a non-governmental organization working on environmental issues.
India’s energy demand growth is expected to outpace the other so-called BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries, according to the latest BP Energy Outlook. India’s energy consumption is expected to grow by 4.2% annually, faster than all the major economies in the world. As a result, India’s share of global energy demand will increase to 9% by 2035.
Queries emailed to the spokespersons for power ministry and MoEFCC on 9 February remained unanswered.