India may ease a deadline to cut pollution from coal-fired power plants blamed for causing the world’s worst air quality amid pressure from generators who say it’s too difficult to implement the $37 billion reforms.
The deadline to meet all the new standards may be pushed back beyond the original December 2017 target, said S.D. Dubey, chairman of the Central Electricity Authority and head of the panel drafting the road map for power producers to meet the new guidelines. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government proposed the limits on toxic emissions in December 2015.
The delay highlights the challenge facing Modi’s administration to provide cleaner air alongside affordable and reliable power to all of the country’s 1.3 billion people. Limiting emissions would take longer than the government’s original two-year deadline and cost as much as 2.5 trillion rupees ($37.4 billion), the Association of Power Producers, a lobby group of non-state generators, said in March.
The new goals may be implemented “in a phased manner,” Dubey said in a phone interview. “Particulate matter emissions should be addressed in the first phase. The next step would be sulfur dioxide emissions and later on oxides of nitrogen. That’s the direction we are moving in.”
The office of Federal Environment Secretary A.N. Jha, whose ministry originally proposed the standards, didn’t respond to e-mails seeking comment.
India’s 187 gigawatts of coal-fired power capacity, which generate more than 75 percent of the nation’s electricity, contribute to the air pollution that makes India home to what the World Health Organization has determined are 11 of the top 20 cities on the planet with the worst air quality. The plants account for 61 percent of its generation capacity, according to the Central Electricity Authority.
India must first establish monitoring systems at all plants to establish an emissions baseline, determine what technologies will be appropriate and then install them at the plants, said Leslie Sloss, an analyst with the IEA Clean Coal Centre, a technology cooperation program of the Paris-based International Energy Agency.
“The time frame for the new norms is extremely challenging and probably not possible in practice,” Sloss said. “The new norms equate to India complying with emissions standards within a few years that Western economies have worked up to over decades. ”
Coal-fired power plants contribute to the release of about 60 percent of India’s industrial particulate matter, as much as half of the sulfur dioxide and 30 percent of oxides of nitrogen, the New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment said in a report in December, weeks after the new standards were announced.
“The emission norms require capital expenditure, which will lead to an increase in tariffs and burden the already weak financials of state power retailers,” said Sachin Mehta, an analyst at Mumbai-based Centrum Broking Ltd. “The plan is fraught with challenges. It is impossible to meet the current deadline.”
NTPC Ltd., India’s biggest power producer, rose 1 percent to 156.50 rupees as of 12:59 p.m. in Mumbai. Non-state generators Reliance Power Ltd. and Adani Power Ltd. fell 1.5 percent and 2 percent, respectively.