'Clean Coal': India's Way Ahead to Lower Carbon Emissions

Sipat, Chhattisgarh: Ahead of the Paris climate summit, India has pledged to cut carbon emissions but said that even though coal is polluting, it will continue to dominate its power needs. The answer, says the government, lies in clean-coal power plants also called supercritical power plants.

Clean coal technology has nothing to do with coal per se but with the process of electricity generation. The plant offers higher efficiency and lower carbon emissions because it generates lesser carbon for the same amount of coal burnt.

Power Minister Piyush Goyal says, "We are almost at a situation where we are not encouraging any new plant which is not super critical technology.'' From 2017, the government says all new coal power plants will use this clean technology.

The main difference between supercritical and the old, subcritical, plant is the material of the boiler which makes it more efficient and environment friendly. V.B. Fadnavis, Executive Director of the National Thermal Power Corporation's supercritical plant, Sipat, explains, "In a clean coal plant, water directly converts into steam without wasting energy (in first converting) into boiling water which is why we save 1000 tonnes of coal every day. Carbon dioxide emissions in 'clean coal' plant are 3.8% less."

Even environmentalists accept that coal is a necessary evil and clean coal technology is better than the old polluting plants. Environmentalist Priyavrat Bhati says, "We have to have far more fundamental changes in energy policy. We also have to push through renewable more aggressively. But looking at coal alone, I think the way forward is to have as much supercritical capacity as possible"

Currently, nearly two-thirds of India's power comes from coal and only a tenth of it is generated from clean coal. The government has decided that the share of clean coal will go up to 24 per cent by 2022.