No two-year blanket extension in FGD timelines for power plants: MoEFNew Delhi: The environment ministry is not in favour of a blanket two-year extension to coal-fired plants for implementing emission control measures but is considering appropriate relaxations in view of pandemic and less capacity of local manufacturers, environment secretary R P Gupta said.

He said the environment ministry may consider a maximum extension of two years to eligible power plants.

The power ministry has in a letter to Gupta recommended a two year extension in current deadline for 448 operational thermal generating units.

“The ministry of power wants a blanket two-year extension. That will not happen. However, delays to due to the disruptions arising from the Covid-19 pandemic and the push for domestic manufacturing must be accommodated but it won’t be a blanket two years for all plants,” Gupta told ET.

“If there had been no pandemic, we wold not be considering delaying the deadline,” he said.

He said the ministry is working out a graded extension to thermal power plants that takes into account factors such as pollution levels in the area where the plant is located, and the preparedness of the plant — that is have they ordered the pollution control technology. On the basis of this information the period of extension will be decided.

“The maximum extension to meet the deadline given to any plant will be two years,” he said.

In the letter dated January 20, the power ministry told the environment ministry that “time extension of two years to the existing CPCB timelines may be considered for all units on account of delays due to COVID-19 pandemic, equipment import restrictions, minimum local component condition under Atma Nirbhar Bharat, liquidity crunch and credit refusals due to high stress in power sector.”

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The power ministry has also sought that no penalty be levied on these plants before the proposed revised timelines.

While the power industry has welcomed the power ministry initiative, environmentalists have alleged power plants are making excuses to delay emission control process.

“The bottleneck is regulatory uncertainty and a lack of coordination across the multiple agencies in the approval process. Power plants are using this as an excuse to explain delays on their part. This uncertainty stems from a lack of regard for the health of our citizens. What we need is to remove all stops to prioritise this,” said Karthik Ganesan, Fellow at the Council on Energy, Environment and Water- a Delhi-based think tank.

Association of Power Producers director general Ashok Khurana said “Power ministry’s recommendation for two years’ extension is a pragmatic step, in accord with ground realities. There is no rationale in having timelines which cannot be met for reasons beyond the control of generators.”

The power ministry had earlier informed the environment ministry that 70% of thermal power stations will miss the December 2022 deadline set by the Supreme Court for implementation of flue gas desulphurisation (FGD) units.

ET had on January 4 reported that the power ministry has suggested that the environment ministry should review the deadlines for installation of pollution control gears by thermal power plants by prioritising areas with high-risk air quality.





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