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India’s power ministry requests third deadline extension to meet emissions targets

11 February 2020

The Indian power ministry has asked the environment ministry to give coal-fired power plants in New Delhi more time to install new emissions-reducing equipment after many missed a third end-of-year deadline to meet environmental targets.

Pollution over New Delhi - Image: Shutterstock
Pollution over New Delhi - Image: Shutterstock

According to the Reuters news agency, a government official said that on January 10, the environment agency, which oversees the country’s emissions standards, received a request from the power ministry to offer new emissions deadlines starting in July 2020 and ending in December 2021.

New Delhi has the worst air quality out of any capital city in the world. Some local coal-fired plants were given a deadline of December 2019 to comply with emissions targets, while other plants were given until December 2022.

Coal plants around the city have said that costs and technical difficulties made them miss both the December 2019 deadline and the previous December 2017 deadline. If the coal plants are unable or unwilling to reduce their emissions, the environment agency has the ability to close non-compliant plants. However, this is unlikely to happen due to the potential for public backlash at power shortages, as well as the economic cost.

The deadlines impact around 440 plants which have a combined capacity of 166.5 gigawatts (GW). According to analysis from Reuters in November, over half of India’s coal-fired power plants which were ordered to retrofit equipment to reduce emissions were set to miss their end of 2019 deadline. 

Environmental activists have said that failing to impose penalties on plants that do not meet emissions targets would exacerbate the air quality in New Delhi and enable power plants to continue as normal with no repercussions. Reuters previously reported that two of India’s biggest electricity generators, NTPC and Adani Power, had asked for their deadlines to be extended. NTPC rejected plans in 2019 to install foreign technology that would help cut emissions of gases that have been linked to lung cancer, smog and acid rain.

The state-run NTPC power plants around New Delhi have continued to operate regardless of missing the recent deadline and the threats of being shut down.

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