Prac­ti­cal mat­ters

De­spite growth in re­new­ables, coal-based power will con­tinue to ful­fil a large share of In­dia's power needs. In­stead of re­sist­ing the new en­vi­ron­men­tal norms, power plants would do well to clean up their act |

Down to Earth - - AIR POLLUTION - PRIYAVRAT BHATI

IN­DIA'S DE­MAND for elec­tric­ity is see­ing a steady rise. With an in­creas­ing num­ber of villages be­ing con­nected to the grid, this de­mand is only set to ac­cel­er­ate in the coming years. Cur­rently, around 80 per cent of In­dia’s elec­tric­ity sup­ply comes from coal-based power. But the sec­tor has been fac­ing a dif­fi­cult time over the past few years.

The energy needs of con­sumers in re­mote villages, where the grid has just reached, as well as in rich ur­ban ar­eas are not be­ing met since power dis­tri­bu­tion com­pa­nies (dis­coms) do not have money to buy suf­fi­cient power from gen­er­at­ing com­pa­nies. The ac­cu­mu­lated losses of state dis­coms stood at 4 lakh crore in 2014-15, as per the Power Fi­nance Cor­po­ra­tion. The re­sult is: mil­lions have no elec­tric­ity; an equally large num­ber gets limited sup­ply and prac­ti­cally ev­ery­one else suf­fers from pe­ri­odic power cuts.

At the other end, due to the in­abil­ity of dis­tressed dis­coms to buy power, power plants are not gen­er­at­ing elec­tric­ity as per their ca­pac­ity. As a re­sult, the plant load fac­tor (plf) or ef­fi­ciency of power gen­er­a­tion com­pa­nies has steadily de­clined. Ther­mal power sec­tor prob­lems could worsen with the ex­pected in­crease in re­new­able energy ca­pac­ity. In­dia has set an am­bi­tious goal of cre­at­ing 175 gi­gawatt (GW) of re­new­able energy ca­pac­ity by 2022. Poli­cies such as cap­i­tal and gen­er­a­tion in­cen­tives, pri­or­ity dis­patch (where power gen­er­ated through re­new­able energy is the first to be pur­chased by dis­coms), re­duced cost of trans­mis­sion and cross-sub­si­dies have favoured the growth in re­new­able energy. Rapidly fall­ing so­lar costs have also pro­vided a boost to re­new­ables. The Cen­tral Elec­tric­ity

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