NEW DELHI (Reuters) - About 7 percent of India's coal-fired power plants may never be able to comply with new environmental norms because they lack the space to install emission-cutting equipment, the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) said, potentially leading to their shutdown.
Coal-fired plants make up 60 percent of India's 330 gigawatt (GW) of installed power capacity and account for the bulk of industrial emissions of lung-damaging particulate matters and gases such as sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides that cause acid rain.
The state power adviser has recommended operating the coal plants - representing about 13 GW of power and most of which were built more than 25 years ago - only when power demand peaks, its chairman R.K. Verma said.
The environment ministry will eventually decide if the plants would have to be shut down because of noncompliance, Verma told Reuters.
Earlier the government had said a separate 5.5 GW of inefficient coal-fired power plants would be shut down.
"Closure of the (13 GW of coal) plants due to non-compliance with new norms would be a big hit on the employees working in these power plants, and the economies related to it," Verma said.
The CEA has sided with power companies that have asked for an extension of the environment ministry's December deadline to meet the new emission norms.
The inability of the coal plants to comply with the new standards demonstrate the difficulties India faces in cleaning up its air, which is among the most polluted in the world.
(Reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan and Neha Dasgupta; Editing by Tom Hogue)