In what could bring the much-needed breathing space to the coal-based power producers, the government on Wednesday said it would extend the timeline for these plants to comply with the stringent environment regulation governing emission norms as the country lacked the domestic capacity to overhaul nearly 180 gigawatt (GW) of such power stations.
As per industry estimates, the cost for the technical changes could be R50 lakh-1.5 crore per megawatt amounting to R80,000 crore and R2.4 lakh crore for the entire capacity of the country. Moreover, domestic capacity to manufacture boilers with relevant technology upgrade is limited to 10-15 GW/annum versus the demand of 80GW over two years for complying with SOx norms alone.
“Prakash Javadekar (environment minister) and I are engaged in consultations over the aggressive norms prescribed by the environment ministry. The government will likely give more time to the coal-based plants for compliance but will keep the strict norms intact,” power minister Piyush Goyal said. He added that the quantum of extended duration was yet to be firmed up.
Late last year, the ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) notified norms for coal-based power stations in a bid cut down emissions of particulate matter (PM10), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and improve the ambient air quality around power plants. Although, the country has never had established SOx and NOx norms for power stations, the notification mandated that plants be made adherent to these norms in two years that is 2017.
A power ministry official said that the current notification mandates technical upgrades even for 20-odd years old plants that are nearing the end of life cycle. “Power ministry is batting to exempt such plants from the norms as it would not make economic sense,” the official added.
Goyal said that proposed amendment to central sales tax (CST) would make it easier for gas-based power plants to procure imported RLNG without source states like Maharashtra and Gujarat demanding value added tax (VAT) on it.
The amendment would obviate the need to issue separate notification by centre and states, the government said.