Thermal power seems to be on terminal decline. Generation from India’s coal power plants fell 3 per cent in April-December 2019, compared with the same period of the 2018, and 9 per cent over the target for the period.
India has installed coal power capacity of 198,842 MW. Data given in the National Power Portal shows that the generation from these plants fell to 718,710 GWhr in April-December period of 2019, compared with 740,862 GWhr in the corresponding period of 2018, and the target of 791,401 GWhr.
Correspondingly, the plant load factor — a measure of capacity utilisation — also fell to 55.78 per cent, compared with the target of 60.10 per cent and the previous year’s achievement of 59.51 per cent.
These data, however, are entirely on expected lines. The reasons — as the research and ratings agency, ICRA, had noted when it analysed the numbers for the April-October period — are that the good rains perked up hydro power generation, while supply from renewable energy continued to grow.
But the problems of the coal sector go deeper than just the competition from hydro and renewable energy. There are structural issues, as another set of data from the National Power Portal reveals.
Stranded for over a year
Right now, 19,013 MW of coal and gas power capacity has been lying idle for more than one year. This includes 2,766 MW of coal power projects that have no power purchase agreement in place. Another 1,150 MW of coal power projects have been shuttered because there is no coal to run them.
Together, with two plants with technical issues (Sterlite 600 MW and Chandrapur 130 MW) and two more (Giral, 125 MW each) that are to be scrapped, nearly 5,000 MW of coal power plants stopped humming at least over a year ago.