The Indian government has extended by two years a deadline for coal-based thermal power plants (TPPs) to install equipment to reduce sulfur emissions, marking the third time that India gives an extension to TPPs on sulfur emissions restrictions, as reported by Reuters on September 6. According to the latest order, TPPs in India will be forcibly decommissioned if they fail to comply with standards on sulfur emissions by the end of 2027. For TPPs near populous regions and the capital New Delhi, penalties for noncompliance with sulfur emissions rules will be effective in December 2024, while those in less polluting areas will be subject to penalties if they do not meet sulfur emissions standards after the end of 2026.
In 2015, India’s environment ministry initially put forward a deadline of December 2017 for all TPPs to install flue gas desulfurization (FGD) facilities. This deadline was postponed to December 2022 and later delayed again to 2024. However, given that not even 7% of India’s coal-fired power capacity meets the environment ministry’s emission norms by 2022, the 2024 deadline still seems unrealistic. India’s power ministry owed the pushback on limiting the sulfur emissions to the growing energy costs, lack of funds, COVID-19-related delays, and import restrictions. Cutting emissions from TPPs is crucial to India’s National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) target of reducing air pollution by 30% to 40% by 2024, as TPPs account for over 60% of total industrial emissions of particulate matter, 45% of Sulfur Dioxide (SO₂), 30% of Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), and 80% of mercury in India.