New Delhi: India’s largest electricity producer, NTPC Ltd, may have vowed to embrace clean and green technologies, but the company—80% of whose installed capacity is coal-fired—is yet to conduct a carbon dioxide emission audit for its power plants.
The Washington-based Center for Global Development, a policy and research organization, has recently identified the state-run utility as the third largest polluter among the world’s power generation companies.
The company, however, said it will act promptly. “We are yet to conduct a carbon dioxide audit for our coal-based power projects, but plan to undertake such a study shortly,” said chairman and managing director R.S. Sharma.
NTPC is capable of producing 29,144MW of electricity, and it will use much more coal as it plans to add 15,180MW of capacity through coal-fired power plants by 2012.
As the country’s largest power producer, NTPC is the largest domestic consumer of coal. It burns 123 million tonnes per annum, or mpta, of coal, which is projected to go up to 200mtpa by 2012 and 280mtpa by 2017.
NTPC has decided to allocate 0.5% of distributable profit every year for its research and development fund for sustainable energy. The firm will use this fund to sponsor and undertake research to develop clean and green technologies.
“A lot of these are statements of intents, and whether they will have a tangible impact is yet to be seen,” said a coal sector analyst who did not wish to be identified due to commercial reasons.
“Indian statutes do not mandate any utility to do such an audit. We do not have an emission-related legislation in place. It also takes a lot of time and effort to do this. There are norms laid down by the pollution control board related to solids and liquids, but the carbon dioxide norms are not so stringent as they are in the West,” the analyst said.
The International Energy Agency, a US-based energy policy adviser to 27 countries, estimates that Indian power plants can raise their thermal efficiency—the maximum heat energy that can be generated by burning coal—by as much as 10 percentage points by using washed coal.
In order to bring down emissions, NTPC is scouting for locations to set up two coal washeries, which will improve the efficiency of its projects, lower annual coal consumption and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fly ash, as reported by Mint on 4 December. The washeries it has initially proposed will wash 1/10th of its annual coal requirements. Indian coal contains a high percentage of ash, which means coal-fired power plants generate large amounts of fly ash.
“According to studies conducted by the US department of energy, for a 10% reduction in ash content, the carbon emission reduction is to the tune of 190kg/kWh (kilowatt hour),” the analyst said.
With the country producing around 67% of its electricity by burning coal, the power sector is the biggest consumer of the fuel, absorbing nearly 78% of the production.
The demand for coal is expected to grow rapidly as India seeks to add 78,577MW of generating capacity in the next five years. The country currently has 143,000MW of generating capacity; NTPC expects to account for 22,596MW, or a little less than one-third of the incremental capacity.