Efficient, real-time pollution monitoring and reporting system is a must for the coal energy sector: CSE conference on coal-based power draws to a close
New Delhi, March 19, 2016: Centre for Science and Environment’s (CSE) international conference on energy drawn from coal – titled Coal-based power: Confronting the environmental challenges – drew to a close here today, with the delegates agreeing on the criticality of having an efficient pollution monitoring and reporting system for the sector, which is being castigated across the world for its severe impacts on environment.
The conference had begun two days ago on March 17, with the Union minister for power, coal and new and renewable energy, Piyush Goyal, as its chief guest. Addressing the inaugural session, the minister had said that “the issue of coal is really an issue of energy security. India has reserves of coal which it needs to tap to provide energy to its people and to propel its development agenda. At the same time, it is committed to using this coal cleanly and sustainably.” The conference had participants from China, Indonesia, Germany, South Africa, UK and India.
Speaking at the same session, CSE director general Sunita Narain had said for nations like India which were struggling with acute energy poverty, coal is a necessity. While these nations must move eventually towards a new, cleaner renewable-based energy future, coal-based power – but one which was as clean as possible – is needed in the interim to alleviate the energy poverty.
The coal-based power sector is in the midst of a major transition across the world. Since it will remain central to energy requirements in the foreseeable future, its significant environmental impacts need to be urgently addressed. CSE says this conference aims to do that by “opening up the debate on the future of coal and coal-based energy”.
On its first day, the conference had covered issues related to emerging economies, new technology and the use of water by the sector. On the second day, it dwelt on subjects such as air pollution by the sector, the new environmental standards, and the management and disposal of fly ash; one of the sessions also focused on perspectives from the civil society.
Today, the third and final day of the meet, was devoted to deliberations on CEMS – Continuous Emission Monitoring System – and an assessment of how the world is doing it. “An efficient real-time pollution monitoring and reporting system is essential to strengthen regulatory enforcement and compliance of environmental standards. CEMS is a proven tool for this,” said CSE deputy director general Chandra Bhushan.
Developed countries such as the US, EU and Japan as well as a few emerging economies like Brazil and China have already adopted CEMS. Says Priyavrat Bhati, programme director-sustainable industrialization team, CSE: “India has begun taking steps towards CEMS, with the Central Pollution Control Board mandating the installation of CEMS in highly polluting industries.”
“However”, Bhati adds, “some basic requirements for successfully implementing CEMS – such as skilled laboratories and humanpower or comprehensive guidelines for device selection etc, are still lacking in India. This creates multiple implementation challenges which must be urgently resolved.” While CEMS has been initiated as pilots in three states, fundamental issues are yet to be resolved: in today’s discussions, manufacturers – for instance – expressed their concern over the unavailability of standards in India for getting themselves certified as accredited device manufacturers.
The conference made it clear that most nations – recognising the environmental impacts of coal-based power -- are taking measures to gradually reduce their dependence on coal. China, for instance, has decided not to build new coal-fired plants after 2030. India, on its part, has put in place tighter environmental standards and hiked its coal cess by eight times within two years. Says Bhushan: “The world is faced by relatively newer challenges, including that of a changing climate – this means countries need to have flexible, nimble energy policies.”