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India gives coal-fired plants extra 2 years to install emissions equipment

The power plants are required to install flue-gas desulphurization (FGD) units that can reduce sulphur dioxide emissions. (File)

India has extended the deadline for coal-fired power plants to install equipment to cut sulfur emissions by two years, the government said in a notification on Tuesday, the third push on its commitment to clean up dirty air.

Indian cities have some of the most polluted air in the world. Thermal utilities, which generate 75% of the country’s electricity, are responsible for about 80% of industrial emissions of sulfur and nitrous oxides that cause lung diseases, acid rain, and smog.

India had initially set a 2017 deadline for setting up flue gas desulfurization (FGD) units for thermal power plants to cut sulfur emissions. This was later changed to different deadlines for different regions expiring in 2022, and last year it was extended to a period ending in 2025.

The order on Tuesday said power plants would be forcibly retired if they did not comply with norms on sulfur emissions by the end of 2027.

The order said plants in populated areas and near the capital, New Delhi would be penalized for operating from the end of 2024, while utilities in areas with less pollution would be penalized after the end of 2026.

The federal power ministry had pushed for the expansion, citing high costs, paucity of funds, delays related to COVID 19, and geopolitical tensions with neighboring China, which has restricted trade.

The delay would be welcomed by operators of coal-fired utilities, including private companies such as Tata Power and Adani Power, which have long lobbied for less serious requirements.

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