Power Gen­er­a­tion

Apart from mea­sures to im­prove gen­er­a­tion it would make sense to also whole-heart­edly adopt the adage that en­ergy saved is en­ergy gen­er­ated, says R Srini­vasan.

Power Watch India - - COVER STORY OVERVIEW -

Apower department state­ment said that the elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion tar­get for 2016-17 was fixed as 1,178 BU, a growth of around 6.38 per cent over ac­tual gen­er­a­tion of 201516. As per Central Elec­tric­ity Author­ity (CEA), elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion from ther­mal, hy­dro, nuclear and im­port from Bhutan grew by 4.7 per cent to 1,159.83 bil­lion units (BU) in 2016-17 as com­pared to 1,107.82 BU gen­er­ated in the pre­vi­ous year. A ma­jor­ity of our power plants de­pend on coal since In­dia has one of the largest coal re­serves in the world. So it plays a vi­tal role in ramp­ing up gen­er­a­tion. As per Plan­ning Com­mis­sion es­ti­mates, the coun­try’s en­ergy sup­ply needs to grow at 6.5 per cent an­nu­ally if the nation has to achieve an­nual eco­nomic growth of nine per cent dur­ing the cur­rent plan pe­riod from 2012-17. Add to this the fact that of the 1.4 bil­lion peo­ple in the world with no ac­cess to elec­tric­ity, In­dia ac­counts for around 300 mil­lion peo­ple in ru­ral In­dia who have no ac­cess to elec­tric­ity.

As per a re­cent re­port ‘Boom and Bust’, re­leased by Sierra Club, Green­peace and Coal­swarm, from Jan­uary 2016 to Jan­uary 2017, devel­op­ment of coal-fired power ca­pac­ity fell around the world. In China and In­dia alone, con­struc­tion ac­tiv­i­ties that would add 68 GW - over a fifth of In­dia’s to­tal in­stalled ca­pac­ity - of ad­di­tional coal ca­pac­ity were frozen across 100 pro­ject sites, 13 of them in In­dia. The Min­istry of Power said that in In­dia, as of Fe­bru­ary 2017, at least 15 coal-based ther­mal power projects with an ag­gre­gate ca­pac­ity of 18,420 MW were stalled due to fi­nan­cial rea­sons. To re­vive some strug­gling power projects with a cu­mu­la­tive ca­pac­ity of some 30 GW un­der a new mega power pol­icy in March 2017 the Cab­i­net pro­vided sup­port of about Rs 10,000 crore to the sec­tor, in ad­di­tion to in­cen­tives to re­lieve the bur­den of stressed as­sets on banks, es­ti­mated at Rs 1.5 lakh crore.

But In­dia does not plan to ex­pand its coal-fired ca­pac­ity dur­ing 2017-22, ac­cord­ing to the Draft Na­tional Elec­tric­ity Plan pro­posed in De­cem­ber 2016 by the Central Elec­tric­ity Author­ity based on the pre­sump­tion that non-fos­sil fuel ca­pac­ity ad­di­tion will con­tinue as targeted - 4.3 GW of gas-fired plants, 15 GW of hydroelectric plants, 2.8 GW of nuclear in­stal­la­tions and 115 GW of var­i­ous re­new­able sources, which would come on­line dur­ing 2017-22.

In all these years the short­age of do­mes­tic coal pro­duc­tion led to a need for im­ports, which in­creased steadily pri­mar­ily for elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion. In 2011, about 95 mil­lion tonnes of coal were im­ported, ac­count­ing for about 15% of the coun­try’s coal de­mand. From the en­ergy se­cu­rity per­spec­tive too, In­dia should rely pri­mar­ily on do­mes­tic coal and re­duce the share of im­ports (which have been in­creas­ing es­pe­cially in the last two decades) in the In­dian en­ergy sup­ply mix. Al­ready, use of im­ported coal is cost­ing the coun­try. In 2014-15, coal im­ports were 212 mil­lion tonnes (MT) and cost over Rs 1 lakh crore -- up more than five times from 38.5 MT in 2005-06, due largely to poor qual­ity of do­mes­tic coal, lack of com­pe­ti­tion among pro­duc­ers, and in­suf­fi­cient in­vest­ments. So the gov­ern­ment said that it is aim­ing to bring down to ‘zero’ ther­mal coal im­ports of power PSUs like NTPC in the cur­rent fis­cal, to re­duce the coun­try’s im­port bill by around Rs 17,000 crore. Sim­i­larly In­dia’s pro­duc­tion of Coal Bed Meth­ane (CBM), a clean en­ergy source ex­tracted from coal seams, grew more than 44 per cent last fi­nan­cial year to around 565 mil­lion stan­dard cu­bic me­tres (MMSCM) as com­pared to 393 MMSCM in 2015-2016 – giv­ing a ma­jor boost to the gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts to cut down In­dia’s im­port de­pen­dence for en­ergy sup­ply.

In a re­lated ther­mal power devel­op­ment, as per reports, nearly half of the coun­try’s ther­mal power plants—are over 25 years old and a large num­ber of them are fast ap­proach­ing 40, which is con­sid­ered the end of their use­ful life span. Ex­perts opined that the gen­er­a­tion ca­pa­bil­i­ties of a ther­mal power plant re­duce by about 40% af­ter 25 years and added that these old ther­mal power plants of­fer a new busi­ness op­por­tu­nity in dis­man­tling. In this re­gard, Power Min­is­ter Piyush Goyal said that com­pa­nies should fo­cus on re­place­ment of old plants with en­er­gy­ef­fi­cient tech­nolo­gies. On a sep­a­rate oc­ca­sion he said that as much as 39,710 MW ca­pac­ity based on su­per­crit­i­cal tech­nol­ogy has al­ready been added and 48,060 MW of su­per-crit­i­cal power gen­er­a­tion is in the pipe­line. The de­sign ef­fi­ciency of su­per­crit­i­cal units is about 5 per cent higher than typ­i­cal 500 MW sub-crit­i­cal units and these (su­per­crit­i­cal) units are likely to have cor­re­spond­ingly lower fuel con­sump­tion and CO2 emis­sions in am­bi­ent air. Of 29 ther­mal sta­tions with a to­tal in­stalled ca­pac­ity of 13,440.5 MW, nine projects with an in­stalled ca­pac­ity of 3608.5 MW have al­ready been com­mis­sioned till 31 Oc­to­ber 2016. Also, in-prin­ci­ple clear­ance has been given to re­place 11,000 MW of ther­mal plants, older than 25 years, with en­ergy ef­fi­cient su­per-crit­i­cal plants in about five years, at an in­vest­ment of around Rs 50,000 crores.

Car­bon foot­print

In­dia, de­spite en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns, may con­tinue to de­pend on coal to pro­vide power since about 300 mil­lion peo­ple in ru­ral ar­eas still lack ac­cess to elec­tric­ity. Also in view of the cost fac­tor as com­pared to re­new­able en­ergy, coal may con­tinue to re­main the main source of elec­tric­ity sup­ply for In­dia though its share in the elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion mix may grad­u­ally de­crease.

The Power Min­is­ter, as per news reports, had said that de­spite the mas­sive in­vest­ments in re­new­able en­ergy, In­dia will also de­pend on coal es­pe­cially for base­line needs to en­sure power avail­abil­ity when other sources be­come un­avail­able. He added that if fi­nanc­ing for newer plants are not avail­able, devel­op­ing coun­tries will con­tinue to run the old power plants.

While we look at the need for in­creased coal­based gen­er­a­tion, we must not lose track of the im­pact of these plants on the en­vi­ron­ment since they are re­spon­si­ble for air pol­lu­tion, cause cli­mate change and emit the high­est CO2 emis­sion - As per an In­ter­na­tional En­ergy Agency (IEA) re­port, In­dia is the world’s third-largest emit­ter of car­bon af­ter US and China. Un­der the his­toric Paris Agree­ment to tackle cli­mate change inked at the sum­mit, In­dia pledged to re­duce the car­bon in­ten­sity of its economy by 35 per cent by 2030 and that 40 per cent of its cu­mu­la­tive elec­tric in­stalled ca­pac­ity would be from non-fos­sil fuel based en­ergy re­sources. The agree­ment will come into force in 2020.

So some mea­sures that could be adopted apart from su­per­crit­i­cal power plants are in­vest­ment in R&D for coal ex­trac­tion, con­ver­sion and coal­based power tech­nolo­gies to im­prove the ef­fi­ciency and per­for­mance of coal based gen­er­a­tion, car­bon cap­ture and stor­age and im­prov­ing the ther­mal ef­fi­ciency of coal-fired power sta­tions to re­duce CO2 emis­sions (A one per­cent­age point im­prove­ment in the ef­fi­ciency of a con­ven­tional pul­verised coal com­bus­tion plant re­sults in a 2-3% re­duc­tion in CO2 emis­sions) and adop­tion of cost-ef­fec­tive pol­lu­tion con­trol equip­ment.

The way ahead

Re­al­is­ing that re­plac­ing coal with re­new­able en­ergy over a pe­riod of time may help de­liver on cli­mate agree­ments, de­liver huge wa­ter sav­ings and also gen­er­ate mil­lions of jobs in the RE sec­tor, the gov­ern­ment has set an am­bi­tious tar­get to gen­er­ate 175 GW by 2022 from re­new­able sources, in­clud­ing 100 GW from so­lar, 60 GW from wind, 10 GW from biomass and 5 GW from small hydroelectric (SHP) projects.

Power and Coal Min­is­ter Piyush Goyal had said that the so­lar pro­gramme will not only en­sure en­ergy se­cu­rity of our coun­try but also pro­vide power to the last per­son at the bot­tom of the pyra­mid in keep­ing with the gov­ern­ment’s 24x7 power for all plan.

In this con­text, ac­cord­ing to NITI Aayog, in­vest­ing in re­new­able en­ergy (RE) on the other hand brings en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits like re­duced pol­lu­tion while cre­at­ing em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties. There­fore, RE has the po­ten­tial to en­sure en­ergy se­cu­rity, en­ergy ac­cess and sus­tain­abil­ity.

Also, ac­cord­ing to a Coun­cil on En­ergy, En­vi­ron­ment and Wa­ter (CEEW) study, the In­dian Rail­ways could draw up to 25% of its power needs from re­new­ables and achieve the 5 GW so­lar tar­get by 2025. In­dian Rail­ways is also plan­ning to set up 500 MW of so­lar gen­er­a­tion ca­pac­ity that will meet the en­ergy needs of over 8,000 sta­tions across the coun­try go­ing for­ward. An­a­lysts said that the plan has the po­ten­tial to cut down the rail­ways’ en­ergy bill by 40 per cent.

- As per es­ti­mates, the so­lar wa­ter pump­ing sys­tems mar­ket is pro­jected to grow at a CAGR of 18.7% dur­ing FY 2017-22. Cur­rently, 26 mil­lion agri­cul­tural pumps are in­stalled in In­dia of which nearly 7 mil­lion pumps are diesel based and re­main­ing are grid con­nected. How­ever, due to un­re­li­able grid sup­ply and in­creas­ing diesel prices, so­lar wa­ter pump­ing sys­tem of­fers im­mense op­por­tu­ni­ties to re­place con­ven­tional pumps. - Un­der the gov­ern­ment’s Street Light­ing Na­tional Pro­gramme (SLNP), 21 lakh con­ven­tional street lights have been re­placed with LEDs, re­sult­ing in an­nual en­ergy sav­ings of 295 mil­lion unit and re­duc­tion of 2.3 lakh tonnes of CO2 an­nu­ally. Un­der the SLNP, the govt in­tends to re­place 1.34 crore con­ven­tional street lights.

So a twin-edged mea­sure to im­prove power gen­er­a­tion along with adop­tion of en­ergy ef­fi­cient tech­nolo­gies, in­clud­ing su­per and ul­tra su­per­crit­i­cal, would go a long way in en­sur­ing the nation’s tra­jec­tory to­wards an en­ergy rev­o­lu­tion. Apart from mea­sures to im­prove gen­er­a­tion it would make sense to also whole-heart­edly adopt the adage that en­ergy saved is en­ergy gen­er­ated.

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