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Coal Based Power – Confronting the environmental challenges. New Delhi, India, 17-19 March 2016

This was a meeting organized by CSE – the Centre for Science and Environment – an NGO based in New Delhi. It pulled together a very impressive list of speakers and delegates from governments, utilities and commercial enterprise from S Africa, Indonesia and China, but the majority of delegates were Indian.

The meeting was exceptionally well organised and the level of discussion and debate was entirely engaging. This is the first time I have seen an NGO working so closely with regulators and utilities in open discussion and, for India, it is a breath of fresh air.

Full details of the meeting and the presentations from most of the speakers are available from:

http://cseindia.org/content/coal-based-power-an-international-conference

My take home messages from the meeting were:

– Like other emerging economies, India is stepping up to the challenge of reducing emissions from the coal sector

– The new emission limits, ‘norms’, being set for particulates, SO2, NOx and mercury are similar to those in China and, as such, are challenging – they will require flue gas control technologies on all new and, eventually, all existing plants

– The Indian coal sector is still growing, to provide some of the power required by the 25% of the population (>300 million people) who still have no access to electricity

– Building new energy sources AND retrofitting control technologies is a huge investment of time and money

– The regulators and utilities present expressed unified concern that the new norms will unachievable within the time frame proposed and that derogations and delays would be required from the offset

– However, new data suggest that some plants may already be in compliance with the new emission limits due to the low sulphur content of the coal, although this was not applicable to all plants

One of the most interesting discussions focused on the move in India towards installing continuous emissions monitors (CEMS) to monitor emissions to ensure compliance with the new norms. Several plants have pro-actively moved towards purchasing and installing monitors. However, this has been done and continues to be done without much expert guidance. In the USA and the UK, CEM systems undergo rigorous testing to ensure applicability on a site specific basis followed by stringent calibration and operational maintenance once they are installed. India appears to have simply selected random pieces of equipment which may, in some cases, prove to be inappropriate. The audience almost unanimously agreed that they needed assistance and training in the purchases, installation and operation of new CEMs systems.

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