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India Shuts Coal Power Plants As Delhi Air Pollution Worsens

India is temporarily shutting down half of the coal-fired power plants around Delhi, but this has had nothing to do with any “coal phase-down” pledges. The coal power plants will be closed until November 30 due to unhealthy and hazardous levels of air pollution in the city and its surroundings, the so-called National Capital Region (NCR).  

Of the 11 coal-fired plants within a 300-kilometer (186 miles) radius of Delhi, six will be closed until the end of November, after the air quality index of the city show unhealthy and even hazardous air quality. Schools, colleges, and universities in the region were closed until further notice, while construction works were suspended until November 21, as per orders from the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM). Half of all government employees were asked to work from home to avoid commuting by car until November 21, and private firms are also encouraged to ask employees to work from home.

According to the orders from the CAQM, all industries in the NCR region that have gas connectivity must switch from coal to gas as fuel. If they fail to do so, the factories will be shut down, Priya Jestin of the Independent Commodity Intelligence Services (ICIS) notes.

The air quality in Delhi has worsened significantly since the Diwali festival in early November, and the smog-induced partial “lockdown” was implemented after meteorologists warned that the alarming levels of pollution could persist for longer with low wind speeds and lower temperatures in the coming days.

Last month, India suffered from a coal shortage, as coal inventories at many of the 135 coal-fired power plants dropped to critically low levels, while India scrambled to get more coal supply amid the global energy crunch and skyrocketing prices of coal and natural gas.  

This weekend, under pressure from India and China, the COP26 climate summit ended without a deal to phase out coal, as the major coal users in Asia had the language in the final statement watered down to “phase down coal.”

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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