The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board launched a new Star Classification Program for air pollution on June 5, World Environment Day. The program uses smoke emission data that the Board is compiling. Since the sampling results are not comprehensible to the general public, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board is making these pollution readings easy to understand.
Under the new scheme, industries are classified according to the density of fine particle pollution from their smokestacks. The top performing industries receive five stars. Those with the highest emissions density receive only one star. Industry, government and the public can access the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board website to access report cards for the plants in their area.
India is moving towards ambitious clean energy targets such as solar and wind power. Between 2017 and 2040, India will account for 15% of the estimated global investment of 10.2 billion dollars in electricity generation. As these technologies improve and are cheaper, the costs of going green have dropped. Earlier this year, the cost of solar energy (Rs 2.62 / kWh) fell below the market price of energy generated by coal by the National Thermal Power Corporation, 10. The cost of solar power could drop 66% more in 2040 on current costs, according to the Bloomberg New Energy Outlook 2017 report. However, the progress of the technology alone will not be enough for the industry to adopt a cleaner growth.
Maharashtra knows the benefits and by-products of growth. For example, the Chandrapur Heavy Industry Center is ranked as the most polluted city in India from 2016 with an air quality rating of 824. The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board regulates industries in the state and Requires advanced control technology. What else can be done to reduce this pollution? In such a thick area with cement, energy and other heavy industries like Chandrapur, it is difficult for the public to know the answer to this question.
The Maharashtra Star Rating Program is the first government-led initiative in India that makes data available for approximately 20,000 industrial battery samples over several years. An easy and accessible way to inform Maharashtra residents about the industry’s emissions around where they live and work, the program has the added benefit of instilling transparency and accountability into the system.
This transparency can cause changes in two possible ways. First, by making citizens more informed about sources of pollution in their communities, citizens can then ask for action. And second, by giving industries information about their pollution emissions, they may discover inefficiencies in their system and opportunities for improvements such as the installation of new technologies.
It could also instill some healthy competition. There is a growing literature on behavioral economics (here, here and here) that suggests that knowing what your peers are doing can be a major source of change. Therefore, industries can see how their performance compares to others and be motivated to improve. Along the way, they could also learn from each other’s success …