The Union government on Saturday announced that all coal-fired power plants not meeting prescribed carbon emission standards will be shut down.
In another major decision for the green sector in the Union Budget, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced Rs 4,400 crore in the 2020-21 fiscal for improving air quality in cities with population of more than 1 million.
“There are thermal power plants that are old and their carbon emission levels are high. For such power plants, we propose that utilities running them would be advised to close them, if their emission is above the preset norms. The land so vacated can be put to alternative use,” Sitharaman said.
Sources in the government said about 80 coal-fired power plants — all below 100 MW capacity — are likely to be affected by the government’s decision. Many of these have already been served notice, they said.
“The process has already been initiated,” a source said. “These power plants are old and below 100 MW capacity, and they have significant emissions with virtually no option to bring down their emissions through adoption of new technologies. Such power plants have already been identified and are being asked to close down.”
However, many of these power plants are owned by state governments, and there might be some resistance to the decision to close down.
India has already said it would not sanction any new coal-fired power plants after 2022.
On clean air, Sitharaman said the Centre would actively help the state governments that are trying to improve air quality in their cities. “Parameters for the incentives would be notified by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. Allocation for this purpose is Rs 4,400 crore for 2020-21,” she said.
Fifty cities with population of over 1 million will benefit from this decision.
Environmental activists, while welcoming the decisions, said the government needs to come out with the details soon.
Kanchi Kohli, senior researcher, Centre for Policy Research, said: “The allocation of Rs 4,400 crore implies that the government considers pollution as a critical issue to be addressed. However, this announcement does not come with clarity on what the money will be spent on. For instance, subsidies to waste-to-energy plants or investing in smog towers have been the solutions proposed in the past, which are non-starters and wasteful expenditure.”
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