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India plans to reduce power output from 81 coal-fired utilities

| Updated: May 31, 2022 16:35:10


Smoke billowing from the cooling towers of a coal-fired power plant in Ahmedabad of India last year –Reuters file photo Smoke billowing from the cooling towers of a coal-fired power plant in Ahmedabad of India last year –Reuters file photo

India plans to reduce power generation from at least 81 coal-fired utilities over the next four years, the federal power ministry said in a letter, in an effort to replace expensive thermal generation with cheaper green energy sources.

The plan aims to maximise green energy potential and save costs, the letter sent to top energy department officials of state and federal government said, but will not involve shutting down old and expensive power plants. India has 173 coal-fired plants.

"The thermal power plants in future shall operate up to the technical minimum to accommodate cheaper renewable energy when it is available," the ministry said in the letter dated May 26, reports Reuters.

India faced a crippling power crisis in April, when a rapid surge in power demand lead to a scramble for coal, forcing the country to roll back plans to cut thermal coal imports to zero.

An increase in peak power consumption during the night when solar power is not available has made phasing out coal-fired generation a big challenge. The addition of alternative sources such as nuclear and hydro power have also been slow.

India is the world's second-largest consumer, producer and importer of coal, and fuel accounts for nearly 75 per cent of annual electricity generation.

The world's third largest greenhouse gas emitter is currently 37 per cent short of its end-2022 green energy target.

India's current power crisis could have been averted if its target to install 175 GW in renewable energy had been on track, think tank Climate Risk Horizons said in a report in May.

"The additional generation from solar and wind ... would have allowed power plants to conserve their dwindling coal stocks for evening peak periods," Climate Risk Horizons said.

The power ministry's plan to reduce coal-fired generation when renewable sources are available could also ease pressure on logistics. India's power crisis has been made worse by a shortage of trains to move coal.

India expects the plan to reduce power generation by 58 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) from the 81 utilities to save 34.7 million tonnes of coal and cut carbon emissions by 60.2 million tonnes, the letter said.

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