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| Last Updated:: 23/12/2015

From 2017, thermal plants have to go clean






Beginning 2017, thermal power plants across India will have to cut particulate matter emissions by as much as 40 per cent and reduce their water consumption by nearly a third, according to rules notified by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change on Tuesday.



Earlier this year, the Ministry consulted with power producers and environment groups to draw up pollution norms for India’s thermal power plants, which are significantly dependent on coal, and have been described as among the most serious sources of pollution.



Earlier this month, the nations of the world concluded in Paris, that all countries — including large, developing economies such as India and China — have to move away from their complete reliance on fossil fuels. Coal, however, would remain the mainstay of India’s growth engine. The government recently said it plans to scale down its dependence on coal from the current 61 per cent to 57 per cent by 2030, even as it ramps up its total electricity generation capacity from the existing 260 GW to around 800 GW. By that year, the contribution of renewable energy — solar, wind and biogas — to total electricity generation is projected to grow to 29 per cent from the current 12 per cent.



The norms, which have been notified by the Environment Ministry, rule that coal plants should restrict particulate matter emissions to no more than 30 mg/cubic metre; sulphur and nitrous oxides to 100 mg and mercury to 0.03 mg respectively. Environmental organisations say the norms are progressive and, if adhered to, will bring India’s power plants in line with international-emission standards. “Now, mercury emissions aren’t even being measured and the new standards propose a cut by nearly 90 per cent,” said Priyavrat Bhati, Programme Director, Sustainable Industrialisation, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), “That’s extremely encouraging. The focus now should be on ensuring that companies comply.” CSE played a key role in proposing these norms to the ministry.



In a press statement, the Ministry has said that power plants in India would be expected to adhere to new norms based on their vintage. Plants established between 2003 and 2016 would have to halve particulate matter emissions but those built after 2017 must make more dramatic changes.