A year after the World Health Organisation declared Delhi had the worst air quality in the world, a new study by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has today sounded alarm bells over air pollution, particularly from coal based power plants. While the two-year comprehensive environmental audit places NTPC's Badarpur Power Plant in Delhi as amongst the most polluting, other power plants aren't much better off.
The study, conducted on 47 thermal power plants owned by the Centre, state governments and private players, has found that Indian thermal power plants were among the most inefficient in the world, on an average operating at 60 to 70 per cent of their installed capacity.
The coal-based power plants were also found to have carbon dioxide emissions that were 14 per cent higher than similar plants in China. Also, 76 per cent of the plants were unable to meet the targets for ulitisation of fly ash, that have been imposed by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).
Most Indian coal-based power plants were also water guzzlers, consuming 22 billion cubic meters of water. This is more than half of the India's domestic water needs. Here too they were found to be more inefficient than their Chinese counterparts, consuming 60 per cent more water.
"We keep talking about building new power plants. If we were to improve efficiency, then we could add a substantial amount of energy. This, hopefully, will help us understand the problem better and ensure better implementation of environmental norms and improve effeciency," said CSE's director general, Sunita Narain.
Speaking at the launch of the report in New Delhi, Environment Secretary Ashok Lavasa said, "Findings which have come require a lot of attention by the Ministry of Power and the Environment Ministry. If we have a viable and transparent bidding framework, you can put in a regime so that the power producer will be forced to be more economical in the resources they use."
State-owned power company NTPC did not share its data with the study, which had to rely on other sources. However, most states and private power producers were willing to share data. The comprehensive report studied the 47 power plants and rated them on 60 different parameters.
While the Budge Budge Power Plant owned by the CESE in West Bengal's 24 Parganas was rated the highest, JSW Energy Ltd's power plant at Toranagallu near Karnataka's Bellary also got a high rating, with the power plant using reverse osmosis technology to completely reuse its waste water in power generation. The worst performer was the Patratu Power Plant, owned by the Jharkhand State Electricity Board.