Renewable capacity additions exceed new coal in India

Drastic reduction in new coal power station capacity construction in India

By Soundaram Ramanathan
Published: Wednesday 16 October 2019
Coal power vs renewable energy

Updated on October 18, 2019 to qualify exceptions to coal power station requirements. Published on October 16, 2019

Coal power station capacity addition is seeing a declining trend in India. Between financial years 2012 and 2016, 10-20 gigawatt (GW) new coal-power station capacity was added every year to the grid. But, in the last three years, this dropped to 5 GW and is further declining.

New coal power addition declines in India

Source: Central Electricity Authority, 2019

According to the recent National Electricity Plan (NEP) by the Central Electricity Authority, India needs no extra coal power stations until at least 2027, apart from the coal power projects under construction. Around 47,855 MW of coal-based thermal power stations are under construction according to NEP.

However, NEP estimates are not reflected on the ground says Priyavrat Bhati, Advisor, CSE, "I disagree with NEP. In fact, companies have seen the writing on the wall and slowed down capacity additions." 

Only three projects have got environmental clearance under thermal category since the beginning of this year, according to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change.

Gujarat recently announced it will not give permission to build new coal power plants. National Thermal Power Corp Ltd (NTPC), India’s largest power generating company, is also focusing more on building new renewable capacity.

In June 2018, the NTPC decided to drop its 4,000 MW green field coal-fired Pudimadaka Ultra Mega Power Project (UMPP). The plant was planned in 2011 with a power purchase agreement signed with the Andhra Pradesh government.

A month later, the Maharatna utility confirmed it had no intention to pursue two other planned coal power plant developments — the 1,980 MW Nabinagar-2 and 1,600 MW Katwa thermal power generating units in Bihar and West Bengal.

Many other companies are shifting their ambitions away from installing new coal power stations with falling renewable energy costs. These companies include including Tata Power, Chhattisgarh State Power Generation Company, Punjab State Power Generation Company, and Bihar State Power Generation Company.

In the last three years 70 per cent of the new generation capacities added to the grid are renewable (see Graph 2: Renewable capacity additions displacing coal).

Share of new renewable power capacity rises

Source: Central Electricity Authority, 2019

Since 2017, India is adding about 15 GW new renewable and less than 5 GW coal.

Coal shrinks, renewable additions 

Source: Central Electricity Authority, 2019

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