Re­new­able Push may Hit Ther­mal Plants: Ex­perts

BUT GOV­ERN­MENT UP­BEAT ABOUT SEC­TOR, SAYS LOWER THER­MAL CA­PAC­ITY UTIL­I­SA­TION IS AN IN­TER­NA­TIONAL NORM

Resource Digest - - CONTENT -

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.

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