Thermal power plants in Delhi-NCR not following govt order to use biomass to generate electricity: CSE

NewsDrum Desk
16 Mar 2023

New Delhi, Mar 16 (PTI) Many coal-based power plants in Delhi-NCR have made very little progress on complying with directions to use biomass or agricultural residue for electricity generation, according to a new study released on Thursday.

A recent (February 2023) notification by the Environment ministry has given these plants more leeway to delay meeting the directives, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), which conducted the study, said.

In October 2021, the Union Ministry of Power had mandated the plants to replace five to 10 per cent of the coal they use for electricity generation with biomass or agricultural residue.

This was done to address the twin challenge of stubble burning and emissions. These plants had to achieve five per cent of co-firing by September 2022, and escalate it to seven per cent the following year.

However, hardly any progress has been made by the plants in Delhi-NCR, the green think tank said.

The 11 coal-based power plants in Delhi-NCR, in addition to adhering to the ministry's policy, were also given a separate direction by the Commission on Air Quality Management (CAQM) in September 2021 to co-fire biomass.

Any non-adherence to the CAQM directive is considered an offense 'punishable with imprisonment' for a term that may extend up to five years or with fine of up to Rs 1 crore or both as per the CAQM Act, 2021.

"Our study shows that cumulatively, less than one per cent of the coal consumed per year in these 11 plants had been replaced with agro-residues until December 2022," Nivit Kumar Yadav, programme director, industrial pollution, CSE, said.

The key reasons for this include a huge demand-supply gap.

The power plants surveyed by CSE have pointed out that they do not have reliable long-term supply of pellets. The Indira Gandhi thermal power plant in Jhajjar, Haryana, has invited manufacturers to set up a biomass pellet making unit on its premises, but the facility is yet to come up.

There is a gap in demand and supply as there are a limited number of pellet manufacturers in the country, Yadav said.

In Delhi-NCR, the cumulative capacity of pellet manufacturers is around 2,500 tonnes a day, whereas the demand is twice that.

The manufacturers find selling biomass or agricultural residues to industries more lucrative and less tedious. They claim that the tenders issued by the power plants are not being awarded on purpose and the process is being delayed unnecessarily, the CSE said.

Government records show that power plants in Delhi-NCR have issued long-term tenders for approximately 12 million tonnes of biomass pellets; however, 73 per cent of these tenders are yet to be awarded, the study said.

Until December 2022, the power plants under the ownership of Haryana government — the Rajiv Gandhi TPP, Yamuna Nagar TPP, and Panipat TPP – have issued both short-term and long-term tenders, but none of these orders have been awarded.

The Mahatma Gandhi TPP, Dadri TPP, and Indira Gandhi TPP are the only coal-based power plants in Delhi-NCR that have successfully placed long-term orders by December 2022, it said.

The study also revealed that in five of the 11 plants —Panipat TPP, Mahatma Gandhi TPP, Nabha TPP, Ropar TPP, and Guru Hargobind TPP -- the tenders issued for biomass pellets are of much lesser quantity than required for replacement of five per cent of the coal-based fuel for 'actual' generation of electricity in the financial year 2021–2022, it said.

The CSE also found that some of the power plants – such as Panipat and Rajiv Gandhi TPPs – have tried to get an exemption from complying with the policy on co-firing biomass by appealing to the Electricity Regulatory Commission (ERC) of Haryana. The commission has however denied the request.

"There is an obvious reluctance in adhering to the policy on biomass co-firing by the power plants in Delhi-NCR. These plants are co-firing biomass only intermittently. A majority of the plants are apprehensive about the supply chain issues and have not taken any strong measures that will build the confidence of the pellet manufacturers or ease their concerns," Yadav said.

After almost one and a half year of the directive issued by the Ministry of Power and the CAQM – and after the lapse of the deadline in September 2022 -- the Union Environment Ministry has released a new notification on biomass co-firing on February 16.

The new notification has pushed the deadlines for compliance by two more years and limited the percentage of co-firing to five per cent.  "As had happened with the emission norms, the new notification has diluted the norms and pushed the deadlines for biomass co-firing, absolving the coal-based power plants from the taking the onus of slow uptake of the policy implementation," Yadav said. PTI GVS TDS TDS

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