New Delhi: India’s coal-based thermal power plants are some of the most inefficient in the world and have high pollution levels, said a two-year long study by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) on Saturday.

CSE also released environmental rating of the coal-based power plants in the country, according to which, NTPC’s Badarpur thermal power plant in Delhi is one of the most polluting units. CESC’s Budge Budge thermal power station in West Bengal topped the list of environmental rating.

The study also found that 55% of the thermal power units were violating air pollution standards.

The performance of government-owned NTPC, which is also the largest coal-power producing company in India, was also found to be below par.

The CSE study, named Heat in Power, analysed and rated 47 coal-based thermal power plants on nearly 60 environmental and energy parameters.

According to the study, the “sector scores poorly on all parameters getting a mere 23% score compared with 80% that a plant following all best practices can get".

“Forty per cent of the plants rated received less than 20% score. Inefficient resources use and technological backwardness leading to high levels of pollution," the study said.

“The objective of the study was to give a clear picture of the environmental performance of the sector," said CSE’s director general Sunita Narain. “Our finding is that in India, where the demand for power is increasing, power plants are performing way below the global benchmarks. Given the rapid increase in coal-based power projected by the government, stress on precious resources like water and land will increase and air and water pollution will worsen, unless corrective measures are taken by the industry and policy-makers," said Narain.

“The bottom line is that we cannot afford to continue discounting the environmental and health costs of polluting coal-based power plants. This is the clear message from our rating. We hope that the industry and government will listen to this message and act on it," Narain added.

CSE’s deputy director general Chandra Bhushan said thermal power plants are operating at 60-70% capacity only and if capacity utilization is improved the sector can meet additional power requirement without building new plants.

Bhushan further said that their analysis points out that there is a lot of room for improvement.

As per the study, the average efficiency of the thermal power plants was 32.8%, one of the lowest among major coal-based power producing countries, and the average carbon dioxide emission was 1.08 kg/kWh which is 14% higher than China.

Meanwhile, Tata-Mundra (Gujarat) plant received an award for having the highest energy efficiency, while Gujarat Industries Power Co. Ltd (GIPCL) project in Surat won an award for lowest water use.

The study also revealed that, “India’s thermal power plants are estimated to withdraw around 22 billion cubic metre of water, which is over half of India’s domestic water need".

Disposal of fly ash also came out as a major problem in the study as presently only about 50-60% of the 170 million odd tonne of fly ash generated by the sector is utilized while the remaining is dumped into poorly designed and maintained ash ponds.

“Currently, about a billion tonne of these toxic ashes lie dumped in these ponds, polluting land, air and water," the study added.

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