West Bengal Tops List of States Buying ‘Dirty’ Coal-Based Power

Thirteen states source 100% of their requirements from clean coal-based power stations

January 16, 2021


West Bengal tops the list of states buying ‘dirty’ coal power, according to the latest coal power procurement assessment conducted by the Centre of Science and Environment (CSE). The assessment is based on the terms of compliance with sulfur dioxide (SO2) norms.

According to the study, most stations supplying electricity to West Bengal have done very little to comply with the SO2 norms, notified by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).

SO2 emissions from power plants are responsible for over half the anthropogenic emissions in India as it reacts with ambient air from more deadly secondary particulates.

Meanwhile, 13 states (out of 33, including union territories) source 100% of their requirements from clean coal-based power stations. The states are Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Chandigarh, Daman & Diu, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura.

Delhi and Goa are also very close in procuring the cleanest, with only 5-8% of their power coming from unclean sources. The rest of the states procure clean coal power in the range of 51-80%. State-run and private-run stations are emerging as the key defaulters.

In December 2015, the MoEF&CC had stipulated norms to control particulate matter, SO2, and Nitrogen Oxide. However, the Ministry of Power is seeking relaxation on the SO2 norms.

To conduct the assessment, CSE researchers have only considered the progress made by power stations to meet the SO2 norms as a measuring scale to identify the dirtiest power source since compliance with these norms has remained a  challenge.

According to the program director, industrial pollution, CSE, Nivit Kumar Yadav, “Coal-fired power stations emit three major pollutants — particulate matter, oxides of nitrogen, and sulfur dioxide. Power stations have been especially lagging in their compliance with the sulfur dioxide norms. Thus, researchers have only considered the progress made by stations to meet the sulfur dioxide norm as a scale to measure scale to identify the dirtiest power.”

The Findings

Nine states are major defaulters. They procure nearly 60% of their coal-based electricity from unclean sources.

West Bengal, Telangana, and Gujarat top the list. In West Bengal, 84% of power stations supplying power to the state are unclean and are far from meeting the sulfur dioxide norms, followed by Telangana (74%) and Gujarat (71%).

West Bengal generates all the electricity it needs through its power stations. The regulatory authorities in the state have the necessary powers to reduce pollution. But most of the power stations supplying power to these states have done very little to meet the norms.

The study also discovered that in Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu, unclean power stations were critical 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 do not make enough efforts to comply with the norms.

For instance, all the Koradi belt supply stations cater to Maharashtra – Adani Tiroda, Bhusawal, Chandrapur, EMCO, Khaperkheda, Koradi, Rattan India, Nasik, and Vidarbha Industries Power Ltd (except NTPC Mouda) – have not taken adequate steps to comply with the norms.

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 their stations while ensuring that stations supplying power to them from other states are also clean.

Yadav said, “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.”

“The CSE study brings out the importance of increasing the state-level demand for cleaner electricity for local air pollution mitigation to keep the national agenda of time-bound implementation of new power plant standards on track. The positive action at the state level can make a big difference,” He said.

Contrary to what is happening in India, the annual energy consumption from renewable sources in the United States in 2019 exceeded coal consumption for the first time since 1885, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) ‘Monthly Energy Review.’

Meanwhile, major conglomerates like Germany’s Siemens Energy have announced that they will discontinue support for new coal-fired power projects.