Thermal Power Plants Struggle To Meet Emission Standards

Thermal Power Plants Struggle To Meet Emission Standards

India’s coal-based thermal power plants continue to drag their feet in meeting emission norms, says a new analysis done by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

The analysis highlights the inadequate implementation of air pollution control devices, such as flue gas de-sulfurization (FGD) systems, to control sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions. The CSE analysis refers to the updated FGD status released in April 2023 by the Central Electricity Authority (CEA), the technical arm of the Union Ministry of Power.


Nivit Yadav, the programme director of CSE’s industrial pollution unit, explains, “The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) issued emission norms for coal-based power plants back in December 2015. However, since then, these norms have been diluted for various parameters, and the deadlines have been repeatedly extended.”

The CSE analysis reveals that only 5 percent of plants implemented FGD systems for controlling SO2 emissions. This includes approximately 9,280 MW of commissioned FGDs and an additional 1,430 MW claimed to be SO2 compliant. However, the accuracy of these claims remains uncertain, as there is no available information regarding on-ground inspections conducted by state-level regulatory bodies to verify them, stated Anubha Aggarwal, programme officer in CSE’s industrial pollution unit.

The installation of FGD systems for SO2 control typically takes around two years and necessitates temporary shutdown of the unit to make the necessary arrangements. CSE researchers have estimated the likelihood of coal power plants meeting emission norms based on their compliance stage and the remaining duration until the deadlines.


Aggarwal said “based on this methodology, we have found that despite five to eight years of extensions in deadlines, 43 per cent of the capacity (Category A, which includes plants within 10 km radius of Delhi-NCR or cities with million-plus population); 11 per cent of the capacity (Category B — within 10 km radius of critically polluted areas); and 1 per cent of the remaining capacity (Category C) are unlikely to meet the norms by the latest deadlines of 2024, 2025 and 2026, respectively.” 

Yadav adds that the picture has a silver lining. “A comparison of the likelihood of compliance between December 2021 and now shows that there has been an improvement. This can primarily be attributed to an extension in deadlines by another two years, combined with increased clarity for another 34 GW capacity, about which CEA had not been reporting until December 2021,” he says. 


  • Only 0.81 GW of the 32.63 GW newly commissioned capacity is complying with the norms.
  • Approximately 13 GW is now likely to comply because of the extension in deadline.
  • About 23 GW capacity is still exploring the feasibility of commissioning FGD in its premises.
  • Only 2.47 GW is identified to be decommissioned, but the retirement plans of these plants are unclear. 


Eastern region

None of the states in the eastern region — Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Assam, and Jharkhand – have any thermal power plants that (TPPs) are at present complying with the emission norms. Although, apart from West Bengal, TPPs in all other states in this region are likely to meet the norms by their respective deadlines.

As per the CSE analysis, Southern REPL TPS and Hiranmaye TPS (total capacity of 435 MW) in West Bengal will miss the deadline.

Another 3,365 MW capacity belonging to Odisha, Jharkhand and West Bengal is still at the very initial stages of compliance — seven years after the emission norms were introduced.

Except Jharkhand, the remaining four states in the eastern region have commissioned coal-based power plants of total 6,962 MW capacity after January 1, 2017. All these plants were built without a provision for FGD systems, despite the fact that the notification had been introduced in 2015. 

Western region

All states in this region – Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra – have some TPPs that are complying with the SO2

The Bandakhar TPP (300 MW) and Nawapara TPP (600 MW) in Chhattisgarh are reported to ‘claim to be SO2 compliant’ – but there is no evidence to justify these claims.

If the capacity of all the plants in the region is combined, the compliance level stands at 7 per cent of the total capacity in this region.

Maharashtra has the highest coal thermal capacity in the country; but only 11 per cent of the state’s capacity is currently complying with the norms.

Cumulatively, almost 6 per cent of the capacity in the three states of Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and Maharashtra is unlikely to comply with the norms.

In Madhya Pradesh, apart from the plants that are complying, or have CFBC boilers, or have been identified for decommissioning, the remaining capacity (72,310 MW) is likely to meet the norms by the deadlines. 

Northern region

The states and locations in this region are Delhi-NCR, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. The Dadri TPP and Unchhar TPS in Uttar Pradesh and the Mahatma Gandhi TPP in Haryana (cumulative capacity of 3,150 MW) are the only plants in the northern region that are complying with the norms.

These plants account for a mere 7 per cent of the total capacity in the region.

Also, 1,025 MW capacity in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh is at a very initial stage of compliance. In the case of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, 6,440 MW capacity was commissioned after January 1, 2017, two years after the enforcement of the emission norms — yet these plants are not complying with the norms.

In the case of Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR), 10,075 MW is likely to comply with the norms. Of this, 3,390 MW has awarded bids, 3,180 MW has floated tenders, 2,480 MW has finalised tender documents and 1,025 MW is still at a feasibility stage.

The Panipat TPS (710 MW), owned by the state-run Haryana Power Generation Corporation Ltd (HPGCL), is unlikely to meet the 2024 deadline as the plant is yet to award a work order for FGD commissioning. 

Southern region

In Karnataka, which had reported zero compliance in the December 2021 CEA status report, 260 MW now claims to be SO2

In Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, there is a substantial increase in the capacity that is likely to meet the norms.

Andhra Pradesh has the highest coal power capacity among all states in the region which would miss the deadlines; this capacity has already completed its most efficient operational life of 25 years.

The Dr Narla Tata Rao TPS, Vizag TPP (Andhra Pradesh), Muthiara TPP, North Chennai TPS (Tamil Nadu), and the Thoothukudi Station-IV TPS (Telangana) are likely to miss the deadlines.

Not a single power plant in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana is complying with the norms till date.

The region also has the highest capacity (9,245 MW) in the country that is still exploring the feasibility of SO2 control on the premises of the plants.

Around 6,270 MW capacity was commissioned in this region after 2017 in the states of Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Karnataka – but these plants still do not have SO2 control measures in place. 


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