With clearances to secure water and coal linkages becoming increasingly difficult to obtain for new power projects, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra are replacing old and inefficient state-owned power plants with new units with higher capacity.
Improved technology allows new power stations to use the same amount of coal and water linkages and generate power, in some instances, three times the old plants.
Enhancing capacity: An NTPC Ltd power plant at Kawas. The Central Electricity Authority has already identified coal-based plants with a total capacity of around 30,000MW needing retrofitting or repair.
“It has been proved that instead of renovating and modernizing the old projects, it is far more economical to set up new ones in their place,” a Union government official, who did not wish to be named, said.
The states had earlier planned to repair and modernize the aging projects, which generate less than 100MW and have been operating at lower efficiency levels.
The move to build new power plants at the same locations where the old units are situated is driven by easy access to coal, a major ingredient in generating power, and water linkages. The units are also situated near large-scale power sub-stations for evacuating power to the transmission grid.
The Central Electricity Authority or CEA, the apex power sector planning body in the country, has already identified around 30,000MW of coal-based plants to be retrofitted or repaired. The power ministry is considering fixing the cut-off limit of consumption for generating one unit of electricity at 3,000 kilocalories (kcal) of coal to identify inefficient plants. Efficient units typically consume 2,300- 2,400kcal of coal for generating a unit of electricity.
Most of these old plants are in states that are often cash-strapped and cannot finance renovation and maintenance.
The estimated annual coal demand for power projects in India by 2012 is 544 million tonnes (mt), but a shortage of 62mt is expected by then as the domestic availability will be around 482mt. Using available coal more efficiently is seen as one of the solutions to bridge this shortfall.
“Instead of retrofitting, we are placing them with units having large capacities. We are targeting three projects having a present capacity of 67MW each to be replaced with units having capacities between 250 MW and 300 MW each,” said Rahul Asthana, principal secretary, power, Maharashtra government.
V.N. Garg, Utter Pradesh principal secretary for power, did not respond to calls made to his office.
Even the World Bank plans to provide a loan of $1 billion (Rs4,000 crore) to Maharashtra and West Bengal, to help the states replace old and inefficient power plants with new electricity generating stations as reported by Mint on 29 September.
“There are sites where it does not make any sense to rehabilitate them (the old plants) as it would not improve their efficiency,” Salman Zaheer, sector manager (energy) for the South Asia region at the World Bank had earlier told Mint.
India has a power generation capacity of 141,000 MW at present and the country plans to add 78,577 MW by 2012. However, the country added only 9,300MW of generation capacity in 2007-08 against a target of 12,000MW.
Already there have been delays in timely forest and environmental clearances for 30 thermal power projects, with a combined generation capacity of around 22,000MW.
Most of these clearances are for coal blocks for mining and land acquisition.
The delays have become a cause of worry as they might impact the overall economy, which grew by 9.6% last year and is expected to grow by 8.7% this fiscal year.
“The focus is on improving efficiency using adequate infrastructure. However, I am not sure whether this will be adequate for units having higher capacities,” said K. Ramanathan, distinguished fellow at the New-Delhi-based Energy and Research Institute.