Powering India

As confessed in Economic Survey as well as Budget 2008, the growth of power generation has always been lower than the targeted growth rate. Lack of availability of quality electric power has been one of the major reasons for poor industrial growth. The target for 2007-08 was fixed at 12,039 MW, of which 7,263 MW has been commissioned up to January 31, 2007. The total capacity addition during the current financial year would be 10,821.8 MW. A capacity addition of 78,577 MW has been proposed for the Eleventh Five Year Plan. It translates into a growth rate of 9.5 per cent per annum. Will it happen?

The deficit in power supply in terms of peak availability and of total energy availability during the current year was still 14.8 per cent and 8.4 per cent, respectively. However, the PLF (power load factor), a measure of efficiency has improved over time in the sector as well as in all regions. To improve PLF further, new thermal power plants are changing to super-critical technology from sub-critical ones. The Government is also going for coal-based Ultra Mega Power Projects (UMPPs), each with a capacity of 4,000 MW or above either at pithead sites or at coastal sites envisaged with imported coal. Tata Power and Reliance Power have bagged Sasan, Mundra and Krishnapatnam UMPPs.

India has an estimated hydro power potential of more than 1,50,000 MW. However, only 21.14 per cent of the potential has been developed till date and 9.53 per cent is being developed. Private sector participation that was negligible till recently has been increasing in the recent past. 10 Schemes with an installed capacity of 3991 MW are under construction while States have allotted 67 Schemes with an installed capacity of 18,030 MW to private developers.

A new initiative of Merchant Power Plants (MPPs) is also under consideration. Merchant Power Plants fill different niches in the market; some provide steady supplies to the power grid, while others fire up to meet peak loads when the demand is at its highest.

And what is happening on power generation front all over the country? Some news reports provide hope, because of its breadths:

Tata Power, India’s third-biggest utility by value, will spend Rs 17,000 crore ($4.2 billion) on a plant at Mundra in Gujarat to generate 4,000 mw of electricity. Tata Power has tied up Rs3,115 crore debt to develop a 1,050 Mw coal- based power project in Jharkhand.

Reliance Power is expecting necessary clearances from the governments within 90 days for its 4,000 Mw Sasan ultra mega power project (UMPP) in Madhya Pradesh and plans to make it fully operational in 50-60 months.

NTPC Ltd would invest $1.84 billion in setting up a 1,320 MW power plant and is to set up and maintain a 1,980 Mw coal-based thermal power project at Nabinagar, Bihar.

Godawari Power and Ispat (GPIL), an integrated steel manufacturer based in Chhattisgarh, is mulling foray into commercial power generation with projects in Chhattisgarh or Jharkhand with capacities ranging between 300 to 1,000 Mw with coal and coal rejects as fuel.

Vidoecon proposes a thermal power plant with a capacity of 1,000 Mw and investment of about Rs 4,000 crores in eastern UP. Venugopal N Dhoot may set up a photovoltaic (PV) factory somewhere in Varanasi for an estimated Rs. 1000 crore investment.

Kolkata-based Jain Energy plans for setting up a 1,000 Mw coal-based thermal power plant at Balpur of Janjgir-Champa district in Chattisgarh and expects to commission it in 2011 at an estimated investment of Rs 5,000 crore.

Jindal India Thermal Power Ltd plans to invest over Rs 20,000 crore to implement three pit-head, coal-based power projects totaling 4,300 Mw in Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The firm also proposes to venture into hydel power production with plans to establish a 1,000 Mw project in North India at a cost of Rs 6,000 crore.

Hyderabad-based GVK Power & Infrastructure Ltd (GVKPIL) is setting up a 660 Mw thermal power project Amritsar at a project cost of about Rs 3,000 crore, and has also plans for a thermal power plant at Talwandi Sabo (1,800 Mw) and another coal-based thermal power plant near Rajpura (1,200 Mw) for an investment of Rs 12,000-14,000 crore.

Adani is targetting a power generation capacity of 10,000 Mw that will be operational in a phased manner.

Steel-maker Prakash Industries will set up a 600 Mw thermal power station in Chhattisgarh with an investment of about Rs 2,400 crore.

And similar initiatives are going on for hydel power too.

NHPC, the country’s largest hydel power company will double the power generation to become a 10,000 Mw-plus corporation by 2011-12 envisaging an investment of Rs 28,000 crore.

The Himachal Pradesh government has signed deals with private companies for building eight hydel projects, including two mega projects and six micro-sized projects.

Initiatives to remove the darkness do also cover alternative sources of energy.

More and more entrepreneurs are trying in different ways to tap solar energy to light up homes in rural hamlets

Moser Baer India is investing about $1.5 billion in increasing its thin-film photovoltaic capacity to 600 Mw over the next two years from the existing project capacity of 40 Mw.

After successfully starting its pilot wind energy project in Gujarat, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) is now planning to invite bids for its second pilot project in Karnataka. ONGC will invest nearly Rs 600 crore in the first phase of its wind energy foray for generating nearly 15000 Mw of power. The total installed capacity for wind energy in India was about 7114 Mw.

And naturally the entrepreneurs are moving into equipment manufacturing too. BHEL can’t remain the sole supplier and the excuse for not meeting the target.

L&T is seriously getting into power equipment manufacturing. L&T is being officially promoted as the BHEL-II for manufacturing power equipment required for large super critical thermal power plants.

Lanco Infratech Ltd is planning to set up one of the country’s largest wind turbines manufacturing facilities, to take advantage of shortage of wind turbines in the global and domestic markets.

The interesting development is the increase in the number of power projects based on imported coal, which will be shipped in from countries such as Indonesia and Australia. “Of the 78,577Mw (of power generation capacity) that is to be added by 2012, around 4,000Mw will be from imported coal-based projects on the coasts.”

Delays in timely forest and environmental clearances for 30 thermal power projects, with a combined generation capacity of around 22,000Mw, may make it difficult for India to meet its already ambitious power generation targets. India must learn to complete its power projects within a timeframe that must match the best international standard, and move to cut down the electricity losses on war footing. Electricity losses in India are about 30% of output; in Bangladesh, it is below 10%. Will the initiatives make India power sufficient and efficient, if not power surplus?

I wish the government could design some robustness in administrative system that can build clear accountability to ensure timely executions. Simultaneously, a time bound programme for power conservation through disciplined use and technologies (preference and incentives for energy-efficient equipment and CFLs) must also be in place.

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