India needs to look beyond coal-based power, says coal minister

August 20th, 2008 - 12:09 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 20 (IANS) India needs to look beyond coal and tap non-conventional and renewable sources of energy such as hydropower and nuclear energy, says Minister of State for Coal Santosh Bagrodia.”There are no two opinions about the need to switch over to other modes of power generation like nuclear energy and hydro. Coal-based power production has to be restricted,” Bagrodia told IANS.

His statement comes after the state-owned thermal power utility NTPC Ltd, formerly National Thermal Power Corp, complained that coal supplies to thermal power plants were inadequate.

Bagrodia, who denied such allegations at a media conference here, later told IANS that hydro and nuclear energy were the answer to India’s future power needs.

“Coal-based power generation is not a feasible proposition. Coal stocks are limited, and might not be there always to generate power at such a large scale,” Bagrodia said.

Currently, about 26 percent of installed electricity generation capacity in India is accounted for by hydropower, against 50 percent in the 1960s.

Thermal generation, using coal and to a lesser extent gas accounts for around 66 percent, while non-conventional energy sources, of which wind energy is predominant, account for about five percent.

Nuclear energy constitutes only about three percent of the country’s total power generation.

India’s power deficit stood at 73,050 million units in 2007-08, during which period 653,172 million units were supplied against a demand of 726,222 million units.

Coal ministry officials claim that the demand and supply of coal to the power units was going to run neck and neck in times to come.

“From April 2007 to January 2008, around 255 million tonnes of coal was supplied to power utilities against the annual action plan target of 249.97 million tonnes,” a coal ministry official requesting anonymity told IANS.

NTPC, with an installed capacity of 29,000 MW, has complained of serious coal shortages at its Vindhyachal, Rihand, Farakka, Kahalgaon and Talcher plants.

NTPC chairman and managing director Ram Sharan Sharma, in a letter to power secretary Anil Razdan on July 24, sought his immediate intervention in the matter.

A copy of the letter is available with IANS.

“The situation is grim and unless fast track measures are undertaken by the ministry of coal and coal companies, the NTPC stations face serious threat of taking units out of bar,” Sharma said in his letter.

The coal ministry official, while admitting “moderate occasional supply shortage” to power plants, said such situations rarely cropped up, and were promptly addressed.

“Which is why we have advised the ministry of power to retain the target of importing 20 million tonnes of coal for power plants in 2008-09. It will help them build up coal stocks at power houses,” he said.

“A long-term solution to meet increasing electricity needs lies in switching over to hydro and other renewable modes for generating energy,” said D.S. Rawat, secretary general, Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham), an industry lobby.

The government has estimated that India will require an installed capacity of over 200,000 MW by 2012 to meet its electricity demand, 60 percent more of what the country currently has.

India envisages providing electricity to all households including 234 million families living below the poverty line and electrifying around 115,000 villages by 2009.

A power ministry official said India needed to increase power generation capacity to 400,000 MW by 2030 from the existing 130,000 MW.

“The power generated through renewable energy technologies has to be increased to 25 percent [share of the total power generated] against the present five percent,” added the official.

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