A day ahead of the latest deadline to categorise their thermal power plants (TPP), the states sought clarification from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on Tuesday, further delaying the process to control air pollution.
The State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) or the Pollution Control Committees (PCCs) were supposed to send categorisation of captive power plants by August 25 to the task force headed by the member secretary, CPCB.
But despite repeated reminders, none of the states sent any report regarding the categorisation.
The task force was constituted in March 2021 to categories thermal plants in three categories: On the basis of their location to comply with the emission norms within the time limit specified and work according to the timelines to install FDGs (flue-gas desulfurisation) — a set of technologies used to remove sulfur dioxide (SO2) before the chimneys of the TTPs release polluted gases in the atmosphere.
After the Centre extended the deadline for bringing in improved technology for the polluting TTP, it also constituted the task force headed by the member secretary of CPCB.
While the overall work for retrofitting of the pollution control technology for the TTPs has shown pathetic progress, even the categorisation of TTPs has been delayed.
Considered the most polluting industry in India, coal-powered plants across the country were directed to introduce stricter environmental standards on December 7, 2015 to be implemented within two years.
However, the reluctance of the states and even some Centre-owned power plants has meant that not all of them have complied with the directives.
The power plants were to either upgrade technology by spending humongous monies or retire. Most plants have neither taken adequate action nor made significant progress towards meeting them.
In December 2017, the timeline was extended on a case-to-case basis from year 2018 to 2022. The government had, vide a notification issued on March 31, 2021, yet again extended the timeline for compliance of the revised standards of 2015 for coal-based power plants.
V.M. Motghare, Joint Director (Air Pollution Control), Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), said, “There were a lot of confusing issues. Some felt we need to consider gas-based plants, some felt biomass-based plants. There was no clarity.”
To add to the confusion, the task force meeting on May 18 had decided that categorisation of captive power plants (CPP) would be done by the respective state PCBs or PCCs in consultation with the Central Electricity Authority (CEA).
Two reminders were sent to the state PCBs and PCCs and yet when there was no response, the CPCB convened a virtual meeting on Tuesday. The meeting discussed to clarify these and several other issues. The states have now said they would be submitting the relevant data by the month-end.
The member secretary of CPCB, Prashant Gargava, only confirmed that a meeting was held on Friday evening.
“Upfront cost is the main barrier to the installation of these retrofits, and uncertainty around the approvals for investment for each plant is delaying compliance,” a briefing paper on ‘India’s Energy Transition’ had observed, and also added, “To further facilitate installation of pollution-control technology, the CEA and the CPCB should develop technology guidelines and specifications for the lenders to extend financing to power generating companies and plant operators on a commercial basis.”