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General Studies 3 >> Enivornment & Ecology

THERMAL ENERGY

 

EMISSIONS DEADLINE

Source: Hindu
 

CONTEXT

Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change extended the deadline for installing pollution control technologies in the country’s thermal power plants this was the third time that the Ministry has extended the deadline for installation of pollution control technologies.

The country’s first emission norms for control of sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and mercury (Hg) from coal-fired power plants were notified in Dec2015, and the thermal plants were given a timeline of Dec 2017 to comply.

NOTIFICATION HIGHLIGHTS

  • The Ministry set up three different timelines for three categories of thermal power plants for ensuring the installation of pollution–control technologies
  • The categorization of power plants was done in April 2021 based on an amendment to The Environment Protection Act,1986
  • For Power Plants within a 10 km radius of Delhi –NCR and million plus cities, the deadline has been extended to Dec 31, 2024, from the earlier deadline of Dec 2022.
  • In the case of power plants within a 10 km radius of critically polluted cities, the deadline has been extended to Dec 31, 2025, from the earlier Dec 31, 2023.
  • For all other power plants across the country which had an earlier timeline of Dec 31,2024, the new deadline stands at Dec 31, 2026
  • The notification also extends the timeline until 2027 for retiring units (power plants that are over 25 years old or more) and 2026 for non–retiring units.
  • This extension comes alongside two dilutions granted to thermal power plants for water and NOx norms. In June 2018, water norms for units installed post-January 2017 were diluted from 2.5 cubic meters per megawatt hour to three cubic meters per megawatt hours
  • Similarly in May 2019, NOx norms for units installed between 2004 and 2016 were diluted from 300 milligrams per cubic meter to 450 milligrams per cubic meter.

CONCERNS

  • The deadline extensions and dilutions could potentially dent India's emission targets.
  • The deadlines needed to be met earlier as the further increase in SO2 emissions will further dampen the current air pollution scenario, resulting in a double whammy with current climate catastrophes being witnessed across our cities at the moment.
  • Seven years after the first notification for thermal power plants to control the emission level of SO2 within prescribed standards, the percentage of plants that have installed FGDs remains negligible.

FLUE GAS DESULFURISATION (FGD)

A thermal power plant converts heat energy into electric power by burning fossil fuels (coal)and pumps out a lot of gases which are –the product of the burning Along with carbon dioxide, thermal power plants release SO2( Sulphur dioxide )which is a major contributor to particulate matter in air pollution.

The process of eliminating sulphur compounds from the exhaust emissions of fossil-fuelled (coal–powered)power plants is known as flue gas desulfurization This is accomplished by including absorbent materials, which can eliminate up to 95% of the sulphur from the flue gas by scrubbing

INSTALLED DESULFURISATION UNITS

  • Data from Central Electricity Authority (CEA) points out that till Feb 2021, of the total thermal power of 211.6 GW across 600units installed in the country, only 8.2 GW have installed FGDs.
  • Installation of FGDs is a time–consuming process and takes a minimum of 36-42 months for commissioning from the date of the award.
  • Bids for the installation of FGDs have been awarded to power plants generating 85.7GW. Environmentalists argue that going by the pace at which bids are being awarded for FGDs installation, a majority of power plants are most likely to miss the new deadline too.

 

CHALLENGES

  • The Ministry of Power and Renewable Energy has often referred to constraints in the implementation of FGD technology at thermal power plants. The Ministry pointed out that alongside the minimum period required for FGD commissioning of 36-42 months there is limited availability of vendors and that there is a price escalation factor too due to the limited supply of components.
  • COVID -19 pandemic had an impact on the supply chain and manpower availability.
  • Associations of power producers raised the issue of supply disruptions in China pointing out that only 20-30% of emissions-reducing components are manufactured in India and the country is dependent on China.
  • Despite the push for alternative sources of power, major production of electricity in India is achieved through coal-based thermal power plants which account for 75% of the country's total power generation. With severe levels of air pollution recorded in the past few years in the Delhi –NCR region and other cities, the cost of installing FGDs, say, experts and environmentalists, should not come in the way of the benefits a clean–up will provide for air quality and health

WHAT LIES AHEAD

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi's commitment made at the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference, India proposes to achieve the goal of 500 GW of non–fossil fuel by the year 2030 and will achieve the net zero emission target by 2070
  • Environmentalists argue that if the MOEF &CC, which should have penalized power plants for not switching to pollution–control technologies, keeps extending the deadline, the transition to cleaner sources of power will take much longer.
  • India’s National Clean Air Programme’s target of reducing air pollution by 20-30%by 2024 will never be achieved if the government gives repeated leeway to violators.

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