It would cost India’s coal-fired power plants at least ₹73,000 crore to comply with the government’s directive to implement clean technology in existing and new plants, an analysis has shown. This could mean, at the minimum, a 10% hike in electricity bills for consumers, researchers involved say.
Current rules say that coal-fired power plants have to ensure that they curtail sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions from their smoke stack by implementing appropriate technology. While this was to be in place by 2017, it has now been extended to 2022 by the Union Environment Ministry.
For the analysis, coal plant units across the country producing about 177,000 MW of power were analysed. The plants were all commissioned on or before June 2017. India’s installed power capacity as of March 2019 is 194,000 MW.
“The total capex required for pollution-control technology installation is estimated to be significant. The costs range between ₹73,176 crore if plants marked for retirement are not retrofitted and ₹86,135 crore if the retrofits were to happen across all eligible plants. This will add between INR 0.32 per kWh to INR 0.72 per kWh (or around 9% to 21% to average tariffs) of electricity generated from these plants, depending on the load factor, the size of the unit and the remaining useful life,” the report prepared by the International Institute of Sustainable Development and the Council on Energy, Environment and Water said.
According to the Central Electricity Authority, 166 GW of capacity requires retrofitting with flue gas desulphurisation (to meet sulphur oxide emission norms) and 66 GW with modifications or enhancements to reduce particulate matter emissions.
Exorbitant as the cost of retrofitting plants may be, not doing so would mean around 300,000 to 320,000 premature deaths and 5.1 crore hospital admission cases due to respiratory disorders between 2019 and 2030.
“The mortality and morbidity costs attributing to PM2.5 alone were estimated to be INR 8,88,038 crore (USD 128 billion) and INR 74,184 crore (USD 11 billion) respectively during 2015-2030,” the report observes.