India May Close Its Dirtiest Coal Plants as Green Focus Grows

(Bloomberg) - India is considering a proposal that could force some of its dirtiest coal-fired power plants to close as policymakers increasingly focus on climate change in one of the world's biggest polluters.
The plan under consideration by the Department of Energy would limit what is known as the facility's heating rate, which is a measure of how much coal energy is needed to produce each unit of electricity, according to those familiar with the problem.
Power plants with a total capacity of 10 gigawatts have been identified as violating the proposed benchmark and more could be added, said those who asked not to be named as discussions are ongoing and no policy has been finalized. This would account for around 5% of the coal power capacity in India, the world's second largest fuel consumer after China.
The Department of Energy was unable to respond immediately to a request for comment.
Efforts in India to shut down old coal-fired power plants have increased amid mounting outcry over air pollution and increasing concerns about climate change. In addition to the environmental benefits, the shutdowns can also encourage the use of more efficient facilities that have not been used to capacity for years.
According to the population, the proposal would limit the heating rate for coal-fired power plants to 2,600 kilocalories per kilowatt-hour of electricity. That is still higher than what some newer plants can achieve. The 4 gigawatt system from Tata Power Co. Ltd. In Gujarat, for example, a heating rate of 2,050 kilocalories per kilowatt hour is used, the federal regulatory authority announced in an order last year.
India has a coal capacity of nearly 200 gigawatts, which is almost 54% of the country's total capacity. In the first five months of the current financial year, the coal-fired power plants were utilized at an average of 48% and produced 64% of the country's electricity. This share has decreased with the increase in renewable energies.
There might be some resistance to the plan from government distributors who rely on cheaper electricity from some of the target facilities, especially those that are fully depreciated and located near coal mines. The Indian central government has limited control over how states generate, sell and distribute electricity.
India's coal fleet must add pollution control equipment as early as 2022 to help fight smog. Plants with a capacity of around 5 gigawatts have already been identified for closure because they have not submitted plans to comply with these new standards, Energy Minister Raj Kumar Singh told lawmakers last month.
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