When worldwide focus is on renewable energy, during the last two years from July 4, 2014 to July 26, 2016, 15 proposals to set up 16,372MW thermal power capacity have been granted environment clearance (EC) by the BJP government at the Centre.Gujarat leads the tally with 3,980MW followed by Tamil Nadu (3,732MW), Uttar Pradesh (3,300MW) and Telangana (2,400MW), Andhra Pradesh (1,600MW), Madhya Pradesh (1,320MW) and West Bengal (40MW).”When the Narendra Modi government itself has said additional thermal capacity is not required for next 5-6 years, why is environmental clearance being granted to coal-based plants?” asks Pushp Jain, director of Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Resources & Response Centre (ERC), New Delhi, that keeps a watch on EIA processes and ensures the impact of developmental activities on India’s environment and communities is properly accounted for.
The ministry of environment, forests and climate change (MoEF&CC) introduced online filing of applications for environment clearance from July 4, 2014, soon after Narendra Modi government came to power. Since the change in system of information, it is two years of the government as well as the new system in place.Is the rate of clearances high? Jain says, “One cannot say environment clearance to projects is too fast but the point is, when Modi’s power minister himself says additional capacity is not required for 5-6 years, why is MoEF&CC overenthusiastic about granting the clearances? The environment ministry should be the last to agree to such approvals.”
India’s National Climate Change Action Plan calls for huge renewable energy push that aims to increase renewable capacity to 175 gigawatts (GW) by 2022. With a potential of more than 100GW, the aim is to achieve a target of 60GW of wind power installed capacity by 2022. The ambitious solar expansion programme seeks to enhance capacity to 100GW by 2022.The country can manage for the next three years with existing plants that are underutilized and those that are under construction with additional requirement being met by new renewable energy projects. Jain said electricity from existing coal-fired plants in India today was more expensive than solar power. As time goes by, more and more coal-fired plants in India would become costlier to operate than solar-powered sources.