57 coal-based power units identified for upgrade

DEBABRATA DAS RICHA MISHRA New Delhi | Updated on January 22, 2018

Central Electricity Authority submits report on improving old plants to reduce emissions

The Central Electricity Authority has identified 57 coal-based power units — belonging to both Central as well State enterprises — with a total capacity of 32,000 MW for being upgraded to become more efficient and reduce emission. The CEA had submitted its report recently.

Super critical units

This follows a directive from the Ministry of Power to replace units that are more than 25 years old with super critical units of 660 MW and above. India’s dependence on coal for power generation has become a subject of debate in the global environment scene, particularly in the West. Conversion of power plants to super critical and ultra super critical units is India’s plan to keep using coal-based power and yet meet its emissions reduction commitments.

Piyush Goyal, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Power, Coal, New & Renewable Energy, has been very vocal about India’s dependence on coal for generating power. In fact, pointing at the transition which the US itself went through from coal to other sources, he said, “America discovered the inconvenient truth only after they discovered cheap shale gas. Till then they kept enjoying cheap coal-based thermal power for over a century to develop their ports, highways, airports, manufacturing, industry and got jobs for all their people.”

Less coal, less emission

In the recently released targets, the government said it plans to reduce the country’s emissions by 33-35 per cent by 2030. Super critical units operate at over 580 degree Celsius and are more efficient that sub-critical power plants. Due to their higher efficiency, they use less coal and hence have lower emissions.

“I think it is ridiculous to stop funding coal-based power plants. We will need base load for electricity. If you stop funding the base load, renewable power cannot be created. We are replacing the old and ageing plants with ultra-efficient super critical plants. This will reduce the carbon dioxide emissions. For all this, funding is required. The world needs to look at a holistic and integrated approach,” Goyal added. 

In April, the government had decided to identify units which were either ready to retire or could be converted into super critical units. Initially, the CEA had found units with 36,000 MW of capacity to be over 25 years old which should either be converted or retired. Over the course of several meetings with all stakeholders including States, 4,000 MW of units were recommended to be retired.

Panipat gets nod

While some like the Panipat Thermal Power Station have already begun the process to convert its units into supercritical units, the CEA in a meeting last month finalised several others. Panipat was the first plant to get an approval from the Ministry of Power to convert into a super critical unit.

Punjab, for example, has identified Ropar Thermal Power Plant as site for conversion into a super critical unit. In Madhya Pradesh, the Amarkantak Thermal Power Plant’s two units were also recommended for conversion into super critical units.


Published on October 11, 2015

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