While focusing on the speedy completion of the new units (2X800 Megawatts) at Sri Damodaram Sanjeevaiah Thermal Power Station (SDSTPS) and Dr. Narla Tatarao Thermal Power Station (NTTPS), the Energy Department is duly working out a plan to decommission the ageing coal-fired power plants as mandated by the Ministry of Power (MoP). However, since shutting down the obsolete ones in a hurry will cripple the ability to meet the surging demand for electricity, it has been decided to start phasing out the units older than 25 years, one at a time but only after achieving stabilisation of the aggregate installed capacity including the above two new units.
In the meantime, constant efforts are being made to comply with the air quality norms laid down under the National Clean Air Program, lest the failure to do so should attract massive penalties.
As desulphurisation of flue gas entails huge expenditure, it is being conditioned through ammonia dosing which is a proven technique to bring down the suspended particulate matter in the air.
Six out of seven units of NTTPS and two out of five units of Rayalaseema Thermal Power Plant (RTPP) are older than 25 years facing mandatory decommissioning.
All other thermal power units in the State, including those of NTPC and the Hinduja Group (both at Visakhapatnam) and SDSTPS were commissioned after the year 2002.
The thermal plants are supposed to install FGD (flue gas desulphurisation) units to control emissions but since they are prohibitively expensive, and there are certain other extraneous factors, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has taken a lenient view of the compliance with pollution norms to be followed by thermal plants across the country and had already deferred the deadlines on quite a few occasions.
As both the NTTPS and RTPP are categorised as ‘remaining plants’ (located beyond the 10 kilometre radius of critically polluted areas/non-attainment cities), they have at least longer deadlines to meet the pollution norms. As of now, the deadline is 2024.
Speaking to The Hindu, a top official of the Energy Department said the possibility of closing down old thermal units is being explored but the State could not afford to rush through it as otherwise there would be a major disruption.
“We will phase out old units but not before stabilising the new units of SDSTPS and NTTPS as the demand should be met 24X7, 365 days. The total base load has to be ensured and there should always be the fall - back option of renewable energy. Then there are costs and various other factors. Right now, we are under no pressure to close the old units but are aware of our commitment and will take necessary steps at an appropriate time”, the official said.