Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Coal dilemma in Indian power sector

According to latest details from government, India installed 15,956 MW against the planned capacity of 16,407 MW in conventional - thermal and hydro - power sector in 2012-13. During this time, state run NTPC commissioned five thermal projects – Mauda (MH), Rihand (UP), Sipat (CG), Vindhyachal (UP), Indra Gandhi Unit 3 (HR) - totalling 2,660 MW. NTPC-TANGEDCO added 500 MW and ONGC installed an additional 363MW. Apart from this, 500 MW Koderma project was also commissioned.  Private sector chipped in another 9,103 MW (25% more than the planned capacity) more to the grid.

In Hydro sector NHPC commissioned projects in J&K, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh etc.

Currently total installed capacity in renewable energy is around 26,920MW (total installed capacity is 2,12,829 MW) - 12.5% of total. During 12th (2012 -17) plan, government is planning to produce 29,800 MW in renewable energy sector. This will make renewable energy’s share in total generation capacity to 16-17%.

It is good to hear that, we were able to produce more power than we planned. However what concerns me is the proliferation of thermal power plants. In private sector itself, we already awarded four UMPPs [(Sasan (6x660MW), Mundra (5x800MW), Krishnapatnam (6x660MW), Tilaiya (6x660MW)]. Many are in advanced stage of awarding. Apart from this, state run utilities are also adding many more MWs to the grid.

How far we can afford it ecologically? Dirty coal will take the pollution level to much higher degrees. As many of the coal deposits are located beneath forest areas, thirst for coal will definitely affect forests and biodiversity. Another problem is price, no discoms - almost crushed under their own debt burden - in India will like to buy electricity produced using imported coal, without subsidies.

How we can move ahead? Waiting for other countries to come up with innovative solutions to generate electricity at a lower cost? Or are we willing to sail in to the uncharted territories do something revolutionary? Like the one Japan did with hydrates?


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