Renewable Energy

India coal power capacity static for 6 months: Report

Average share of renewable energy in daily generation goes up to 12.9% from 12.3% in a year

By Seema Prasad
Published: Monday 07 November 2022
Almost 30% of India's installed power generation capacity is from RE sources, the report said. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Almost 30% of India's installed power generation capacity is from RE sources, the report said. Photo: Wikimedia Commons Almost 30% of India's installed power generation capacity is from RE sources, the report said. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

India has neither added nor retired any new capacity of coal-derived power for two successive fiscal quarters this year from April to September, according to the latest quarterly report by non-profit public policy think tank Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW). 

Temporarily withholding addition of coal-based power is not a new phenomenon — coal-based capacity was not increased in April, May and June 2021. There was no retirement in coal-based power generation in October, November and December last year either, showed CEEW data. 

The retirement of coal power plants has temporarily slowed down, said Vibhuti Garg, South Asia director at Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) told Down To Earth. 

Read more: Employment in energy sector back to pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels, finds report

“India is facing a huge energy demand, especially until more coal or renewable energy capacity is added,” she said. “Addition of coal-based power generation capacity in a year has gone down tremendously. Year after year, the country has been adding less and less coal-based capacity."

The existing capacity is running at low plant load factors (PLF). PLF is the ratio of average power generated by the plant to the maximum power that could have been generated in a given time.

The government’s focus is to upgrade all the existing plants to accommodate a high PLF, Garg told DTE.

While there has been no addition of coal-based power generation in the last six months, “94 per cent of the thermal capacity (6,350 MW) addition planned for FY23 is to come from coal-based thermal power plants,” the report said. However, adding more coal-based power plants will add stranded assets, according to Garg. 

Over the last two years, Power Finance Corporation and Rural Electrification Corporation have shifted their focus to transmission and distribution and renewable energy projects. Both are public sector undertakings under the Ministry of Power, which generally finance under-construction thermal power projects. 

“This accounts for around 42 per cent (Rs 1,57,031 crore) and 10 per cent (Rs 37,050 crore) of its total loan book as of the first quarter of 2022-2023 vs 38 per cent (INR 1,41,780 crore) and 10.3 per cent (INR 38,271 crore) in the first quarter of 2021-2022, respectively,” the report highlighted.

For the fiscal year of 2021-22, 3.68 gigawatts (GW) of coal was added to the energy mix and 1.58 GW of coal was retired from power generation, the report said.

Renewable energy (RE) share goes up

On average, the share of RE has gone up from 12.3 per cent to 12.9 per cent in a year for daily power generation. However, the share of coal and lignite has come down from 66.2 per cent to 65.8 per cent, the report said.

“Out of the total installed capacity (408 GW), 118.1 (29 per cent) is coming from renewable resources (solar, wind, small hydro, biomass/others) as of September 2022. For the quarter, 12.9 per cent is the share of the average daily generation,” co-author of the report, Ruchita Shah, programme associate, CEEW-Centre for Energy Finance told DTE.

Solar and wind resources — the dominant technology in the Indian RE mix — are not available throughout the day and year and the installed capacity share doesn’t reflect in the generation share, Shah added. 

“In simple terms, the capacity utilisation factor of the RE project is on the lower side compared to a conventional generator,” Shah added further.

July 12, August 1 and 12, 2022 recorded the highest share of RE available in the grid on any given day at 17.4 per cent, 19.2 per cent and 16.8 per cent, data showed. 

“RE generation is highly dependent on resources. For example, on July 12, 2022, both wind and solar generation peaked compared to any other day of the quarter, given that wind resource availability is high during monsoon (June-September) and this year’s extended summers added to the solar generation,” Shah told DTE.

As COP27 begins November 7, the share of renewables in India’s energy mix will be in the spotlight. The country’s target is to achieve 50 per cent of installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources by 2030, as per the updated nationally determined contributions.

Read more: Net-zero emission means doubling energy supply from renewables

But Shah believes India is faring well on that front. “At the end of the second quarter 2021-2022, the share of non-fossil-fuel-based installed capacity (165 GW) stood at 40 per cent of the total installed capacity (408 GW),” she said.  

“In addition, as of September 30 2022, 59.8 GW of RE projects (solar — 48.1 GW, wind — 7.3 GW and RE hybrid — 4.4 GW) are under construction in the country, as per CEA’s draft report on under-construction RE projects,” Shah further said. 

But this may not be happening at the desired pace. “As the prices of certain solar parts had gone up last year, we saw only around 50 GW of renewable power added. India needs more than 50 GW of renewable energy added every year to meet 500 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2030,” Garg added. 

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