Chandigarh, September 21
Union Power Minister RK Singh told a CII conference last week that India may add 25GW to 30GW thermal electricity generation capacity in addition to 50 GW already under construction to meet the rising power demand.
India is growing at a rapid pace and electricity demand is rising very fast, which needs to be met, the union minister said, adding that the country may add another 25GW to 30GW of thermal power capacity to meet the demand.
In August power demand in the country touched an all-time high due to high temperatures and a jump in requirement for irrigation amid deficit monsoon rains. The maximum demand met on August 17 was 234GW, the highest ever on record, and higher than 229GW predicted by the planning cell of the Power Ministry for the summer, according to reports.
More thermal power, more coal consumption
Adding 25GW to 30GW capacity means India will need additional coal once the projects are completed. Some reports have pegged the figure at 292 million tonne (MT).
Around 3.5-4MT is used to generate 1,000 MW at 65%-75% plant load factor (PLF). Considering 3.7 MT coal consumption for each GW, the total consumption will increase by 38% from current levels.
The consumption of GHG-spewing fuel is rising as per the official figures. The total coal consumption in 1983-84 was 130.73 MT compared to 1115.02 MT (provisional) in 2022-23 with a growth of around 753%.
New coal plants, growing demand
According to a statement by the Coal Ministry in August, two NLCIL thermal power plants will start generating power by the end of this year.
The one at Ghatampur near Kanpur will generate 3X660MW power.
Coming at the cost of Rs 19,406 crores, the joint venture between NLCIL and the Government of Uttar Pradesh will supply 1478.28MW to UP and 492.72MW to Assam. The first phase of this plant is expected to start generating power by the end of this year.
In addition the 3X800MW pithead thermal power plant at Talabira in Odisha, which will supply 1450MW power to Tamil Nadu, 100MW to Puducherry and 400MW to Kerala, is expected to begin by the end of this year and likely to be completed by 2028-29.
Coal India Ltd (CIL) is also in the process of establishing two thermal power plants. The one near Amarkantak is a joint venture with the Madhya Pradesh Government. Mahanadi CoalFields Ltd (a CIL subsidiary), which has set up Mahanadi Basin Power Limited, plans to establish a 2x800MW thermal power plant near its Basundhara Mines.
Environmentalists fret and fume
Global coal demand is at an all- time high with 8,031MT projected for 2024, say green groups.
“While coal surge is being driven primarily by China, India, Indonesia, Russia and Turkey, the wider G20 stands accused of fuelling this rise by continuing to invest in overseas fossil fuel projects, giving nearly $17 billion per year to other countries for coal mining and coal-fired power plants.
“G20 countries are clinging to old, polluting energy while renewables are proving to be both cost-competitive whilst saving money for consumers,” they add, quoting a recent analysis by the Climate Transparency Alliance.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is expected to call on countries to hit fast forward on energy transition at the UN Climate Ambition Summit so that developed countries reach net zero as close as possible to 2040 and emerging economies as close as possible to 2050.
According to Gerd Leipold, Director of Climate Transparency, “We’ve run out of time for excuses. There are none left given we have all of the solutions we need at all fingertips. It’s clear coal is a dead end for the planet and we need to end its use urgently. Governments just need to get on with investing in cleaner, cheaper and greener industries and improve the lives of billions of people”
Unfair to single out coal, says India
Coal currently accounts for 70% of electricity generation in India.
Amid the international hullabaloo over the consumption of fossil fuels, India’s argument has always been that it is unfair to single out coal while other fossil fuels continue being widely used by western countries.
Officials say as per the policies of the Ministry of Power, required renewable energy potential has also been created along with the thermal power plant so that the power generation can be augmented with the combination of thermal as well as solar.This will help to supply power in a cost effective manner to the end users, they add.
According to the Central Electricity Authority, India has 178GW of renewable energy capacity—47GW large hydro, 71GW solar and 44GW of wind energy.
Moreover, for any just transition to renewables, the world also needs to address historical wrongs.
Notably during the Cop-26 climate talks, countries like India and China managed to water down the language of the final agreement, changing the commitment to “phase down” rather than “phase out” coal power.
At Cop-27 also India countered pressure to reduce its continued reliance on coal by pushing for an agreement to phase down all fossil fuels, including gas, which the western world, including Europe and the US, dependent upon.
Amid the renewed global push to commit to phasing out fossil fuels, all eyes are on Cop-28 slated later this year.
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