Even as Power Minister R K Singh Thursday said the state-run National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) would float tenders to buy farm stubble for use as fuel at its power plants, the NTPC counsel told the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that power plants converting “farm stubble to pellets” were few.
The Tribunal then directed the NTPC to inform it of the amount of crop residue, in pellet form or otherwise, that can be used as raw material along with coal in power plants across UP and Haryana. Pellets are the compressed form of agriculture residue.
At a press conference, the minister said, “On an average, a farmer gets around two tonnes of stubble or straw per acre. NTPC will bring a tender to buy the pellets of farm residue in the next few days, at a rate of Rs 5,500 per tonne. This will help farmers earn around Rs 11,000 per acre.”
However, the NTPC counsel told the bench, headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar, that while it had issued tenders to procure biomass pellets for a power plant in UP in August, plants converting stubble into pellets “were few” and at “small scale”. The NTPC issued the tenders after the NGT asked why it cannot buy stubble from farmers as part of its corporate social responsibility initiative.
The corporation said it has seven plants in North India — of which six are in UP, including one in Dadri — and that it needs 21,000 tonnes of pellets daily to fuel a single plant. The bench then asked the Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh governments to take legal instructions on the possibility of setting up plants to convert stubble to pellets. It added that the states “must consider” setting up such plants in two-three districts where crop burning is very high “at least as a pilot project”.
It added that the governments must figure out a system to “lift the crop residue from the feet of the farmer” and give them benefits. Power Secretary A K Bhalla, however, said stubble pellets procured for power plants may not be used this season, but the system will be in place.