New Delhi (NVI): West Bengal tops the list of states in buying the dirtiest coal power in the country in terms of compliance with sulphur dioxide (SO2) norms, according to a new state-wise assessment of coal power procurement, done by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).
As per the CSE study, the national average procurement of cleaner coal power is just 42 per cent. Nine states — West Bengal, Telangana, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, and Tamil Nadu — procure less than this national average.
“We found that on an average, only 42 per cent of the tie-ups have been with cleaner coal power stations. In nine states, the tie-ups have been lesser than this average – West Bengal with 16 per cent stands out as the state buying the maximum amount of ‘dirty’ power,” says Soundaram Ramanathan, deputy programme manager, industrial pollution unit, CSE.
Most of the stations supplying electricity to the state have not taken adequate measures to comply with December 2015 sulphur dioxide norms notified by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change, says the study.
In the study, CSE researchers considered the progress made by power stations to meet only the SO2 norms as a measuring scale to identify the dirtiest power because limits on oxides of nitrogen have already been watered down, and particulate matter norms do not demand much changes in the system.
“Coal-fired power stations emit three major pollutants — particulate matter, oxides of nitrogen, and sulphur dioxide. Power stations have been specially lagging behind in their compliance with the sulphur dioxide norms. Therefore, in this study, the researchers have considered the progress made by stations to meet the sulphur dioxide norm as a measuring scale to identify the dirtiest power,” said Nivit Kumar Yadav, programme director, industrial pollution, CSE.
CSE study says that there is strong pressure to dilute the SO2 norms already. The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) had stipulated norms to control particulate matter, SO2and NOxin December 2015. However, the Union Ministry of Power is seeking further relaxation of the SO2norms.
Sulphur dioxide emissions from power plants are responsible for over half the anthropogenic emissions in India. Sulphur dioxide in the ambient air reacts to form more deadly secondary particulates in the ambient air, as per the story.
The CSE study has benchmarked the electricity procurement by states from different power plants to see if cleaner power is being procured. “This is important as bottom-up pressure and demand for cleaner electricity from states can be an important catalyst to accelerate quicker transition to cleaner power without derailing time-bound implementation of the new norms. This is needed under the National Clean Air Programme,” it said.
In its assessment, CSE ranked the states and Union territories (UTs) based on the percentage tie-up they have with unclean coal power capacity. Thirty-three states procure electricity from coal-based power plants in India.
These states have tie-ups with various coal-firing power generators which are at times located in different states also. CSE accessed data for 162,091 MW capacity from the Ministry of Power’s website and has made an assessment of how much cleaner power a particular state is procuring.
Nine states are the major defaulters, as per the study and on an average, these states are procuring nearly about 60 per cent of their coal-based electricity from unclean sources.
As per the key findings, West Bengal, Telangana and Gujarat top the list. In West Bengal, 84 per cent of power stations supplying power to the state are unclean and are far away from meeting the sulphur dioxide norm.
In Telangana, this figure is 74 per cent; it is 71 per cent in Gujarat. Most of the power stations located in and supplying power to these states have done very little to meet the norms.
The study found that in three of the nine states– Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu — unclean power stations were one of the key sources of ambient air pollution in non-attainment cities.
In the remaining three states — Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, and Uttar Pradesh — unclean power stations are located in clusters, and are not making sufficient efforts to comply with the norms.
Only 13 states/UTs (out of 33) are sourcing 100 per cent of their requirements from clean coal-based power stations. These are Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Chandigarh, Daman & Diu, Himachal Pradesh, J&K, Jharkhand, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura.
Delhi and Goa are also very close in terms of procuring the cleanest — only 5-8 per cent of their power is coming from unclean sources (earlier, Delhi had been procuring one-third of its electricity from unclean sources).
The rest of the states procure clean coal power in the range of 51-80 per cent. State-run and private-run stations are emerging as the key defaulters.
Notably, of the nine states buying maximum unclean power, only Gujarat and West Bengal have the full authority to monitor the stations as these stations are located within their state boundaries. The rest of the states have dual accountability of cleaning up both their own stations as well as ensuring stations supplying to them from other states are clean.
“The penalty for non-compliance today is just a fraction of the fixed costs paid to power plants. This cannot push the sector towards compliance. The government will need to revisit and strengthen its deterrence mechanism – otherwise, implementing any environmental regulation will take decades,” says Yadav.