COAL IS STILL POWER-FULL
Business Today|May 30, 2021
Despite its focus on reducing carbon emissions, India relies heavily on coal for power production. Here’s how some of the country’s biggest power producers are preparing for the fossil fuel-free power generation era
P.B. JAYAKUMAR

In 2015, Tata Power Company had a gross generation capacity of 8,726 megawatt (MW), mainly 7,607 MW of thermal power. Its green energy portfolio was barely 1,119 MW comprising 573 MW of hydro, 487 MW of wind and just 59 MW of solar. It had plans to add another 9,105 MW, of which thermal was 8,270 MW and just 835 MW of hydro and renewable power.

Six years later it’s a different story. Tata Power has 12,772 MW of installed capacity, but thermal capacity has been increased to just 8,860 MW. Instead, it now has 3,913 MW of clean power, including 1735 MW of solar and 932 MW wind, 871 MW hydro and 375 MW of waste heat recovery. The increase in thermal capacity was due to an acquisition of Prayagraj Power in 2019. “However, this is likely to be amongst the last investments in coal-based power plants as we turn our sights completely towards cleaner energy,” Praveer Sinha, CEO and Managing Director, Tata Power, told shareholders last year.

Fresh investment in new distribution solutions like micro-grid, solar rooftop and solar water pumps in both urban and rural areas are aimed at taking its share of clean and green energy from 30 per cent in 2020 to around 50-60 per cent in 2025. It has a large pipeline of over 1,240-MW solar capacity under implementation in more than a dozen projects.

Tata Power’s archrival Adani Power has an even more transformative story. In 2015, Adani had green power capacity of just 300 MW. It was predominantly a thermal power firm with a capacity of 10,440 MW of thermal assets, thanks to aggressive acquisitions and huge greenfield coal-fired plants built over the years. Six years down the line, Adani has added just 2,000 MW to its operational thermal capacity of 12,450 MW. Another 1,600 MW is under construction. But, in the meantime, Adani Group shifted focus dramatically to renewables and incubated separate renewable companies. Currently, it is the world’s largest green energy developer with 14,800 MW of renewable energy projects (3000 MW are operational and 11,845 MW under implementation). In the last four years, when the solar power industry in India was growing at over 25 per cent, Adani grew 161 per cent. Chairman Gautam Adani has set an ambitious target to be the world’s largest renewable company by 2025 with just green energy capacity of 25,000 MW.

Peak-load demand and energy requirements in India are likely to rise from over 1,70,000 MW in FY20 to over 4,30,000 MW by 2037, at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of over 4 per cent due to economic recovery and rising population. India’s energy sector, meanwhile, is going through a major transition, from highly polluting coal-based power generation to green energy resources such as solar and wind. If India added 82,000 MW of coal projects during 2010-15, solar generation capacity addition during the same period was 3,000 MW from almost zero. In the next five years, when the country added another 58,000 MW of coal capacity, solar addition grew by 34,000 MW. During 2020-2025, India is expected to add another 32,000 MW of coal capacity, with solar contributing 62,000 MW. In the next five years from 2025 to 2030, while coal capacity addition will dwindle to 1,000 MW, solar will increase to 1,18,000 MW, according to the estimates of the International Energy Agency (IEA).

1,70,000 MW Peak load demand in the country in FY20. It is likely to rise to 4,30,000 MW by 2037

The Transition

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