An Overview of Policies Influencing Air Pollution from the Electricity Sector in South Asia

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


The electricity sector is a substantial source of air pollution and associated health problems in South Asia and elsewhere. Fossil-fueled power plants emit a wide variety of harmful pollutants. Those with the greatest health impacts are particulate matter and ozone. Once released into the atmosphere, there is no practical way to remove air pollutants, which means that policies designed to improve air quality have to limit the pollutants before release. However, tackling such pollution is challenging because developing economies also need to provide electricity as a basic necessity for their citizens and as an engine of economic growth. This report provides examples of policies impacting air pollution from the fossil-fuel electricity sector in the South Asian countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Some of this information was difficult to locate, so this is not a comprehensive study, but rather an overview or "scan" of the sector that includes examples of (1) policies that directly regulate air quality by limiting emissions from specific point sources (by restricting operating hours, for instance), and (2) indirect policies that incentivize or disincentivize polluting activities, such as policies to encourage fuel switching, for example. The report shows (1) the great variation among the policy instruments used in each country, (2) that many countries, especially those that have a mismatch between seasonal demand and resource availability, could improve energy security and reduce air pollution through increased cross-border electricity trade, and (3) some countries have contradictory policies (promoting both coal and renewables, for instance).
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages46
StatePublished - 2021

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-7A40-80156


  • Afghanistan
  • air pollution
  • air quality
  • Bangladesh
  • Bhutan
  • CASA-1000
  • coal
  • electricity sector
  • electricity trade
  • emissions
  • energy policy
  • fossil fuel
  • India
  • Maldives
  • Nepal
  • Pakistan
  • power plant
  • South Asia
  • Sri Lanka
  • U.S. Department of State


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