Gaps between monitoring goals and monitoring status in India – a new ICSC report

Image: Bigstock
India has set new emission limits for particulate matter (PM), SO2, NOx and mercury, as shown in the table below.

Indian coal plants must now take action to ensure that they comply with these limits. The Indian National Pollution Control Board (NPCB) now requires that all individual coal-fired units install CEM (continuous emission monitoring) systems to report emissions data electronically, in real-time, to the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCB). Guidelines have been issued which require CEM systems to be installed in a way that remote calibration can confirm CEM performance and data tampering is avoided. This is, in theory, a good way to ensure that plant emissions can be policed, and appropriate actions can be taken swiftly to curb exceedances. However, in practice, the system is incomplete and suffers from several weaknesses.

The figure below shows the status of installation of CEM systems across the coal power fleet in India, based on data reviewed by the ICSC.

CEM04 - ICSC2021 Figure 4 from pillar 1 report

For all pollutants, fewer than half of the coal units have CEM systems in place. Between 3 and 10% of the fleet are reporting technical issues with the systems that they have in place for PM, SO2 and NOx (there are few, if any, plants with emission monitoring for mercury in place).

This means that well over half of the coal power plants in India are unable to determine whether they are in compliance with the emission standards. If these standards are to achieve the desired reduction in emissions and improved air quality, then it is imperative that steps are taken to resolve these monitoring and reporting challenges.

A new ICSC report been published based on the above work and the Centre is now working with Indian stakeholders to deliver training and capacity building on emissions monitoring. It is hoped that four regional workshops can be held in India over the next 12-18 months. More details will be provided on the ICSC website once these events are finalised.