Renewable Push may Hit Thermal Plants: Experts
BUT GOVERNMENT UPBEAT ABOUT SECTOR, SAYS LOWER THERMAL CAPACITY UTILISATION IS AN INTERNATIONAL NORM
Various power sector experts, including those at Central Electricity Authority ( CEA), have warned that the unprecedented surge in renewable energy capacity in the next few years will severely stress thermal power plants, but power secretary PK Pujari remains upbeat about the sector.
Thermal power plants are operating at an all- time low of just over 50% of their capacities, triggering a debate within the industry on whether the country really needs the planned addition of 175 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2022.
Industry fears that large- scale addition of renewable capacity will further erode the margins of thermal power projects.
According to industry sources, CEA, which has made various demand projections in different scenarios up till 202122, has projected that national average operating capacity, or plant load factor ( PLF), of thermal plants could drop below 50% if the targeted renewable energy generation is added by 2021 and the 50,000 mw under various stages of construction power plants come on line.
Pujari, however, doesn't share these concerns, saying it's an international norm that countries with high renewable energy generation capacity have thermal power projects operating at lower levels. “On an average PLF will come down. But that is not a concern,” the power secretary said. “Even the power transmission lines are always built as two for backup. Whether low PLF is good or bad is a subjective statement. Internationally most thermal power plants operate at 60%. It might be negative for individual companies, but as an aggregate the surplus power is required. This is a cyclical scenario,” he told.
“The average PLF numbers are more complicated than simply looking at the national average,” he said.
Pujari said the national average PLF might be low but the thermal power plants may get to operate above 60% during night in the absence of wind and solar electricity generation.