Coal power – Essential ingredient of energy mix in the 12th plan

Posted on April 24, 2011 by

The Government of India has been pushing towards non-conventional and renewable energy resources. Also, India recently entered the top 10 RE investment destinations list. The Indo-US nuclear deal is expected to give some thrust to the nuclear power projects, once the local concerns are taken of. But driven by the persisting and widening energy demand-supply gap, India’s thrust continues to be on coal-fired thermal power plants. A recent meeting by the planning commission, headed by the Prime Minister, targeted setting up additional 100GW of power generation capacity in the 12th five-year plan (2012-2017). Bulk of this is expected to come from coal-fired plants.Also, the heavy dependence on imported coal will continue as the Indian coal is poor in quality and a number of mining activities are on hold, awaiting environmental clearances.

The Planning Commission recently released a presentation paper that outlines the approach to the 12th five-year plan (2012-2017) from energy mix perspective.  This paper delves into diversifying the energy mix and increasing penetration of solar, wind and nuclear energy to limit the country’s carbon footprint but the real money seems to be going into coal-fired power plants. This paper was presented on Friday, at the meeting of the Planning Commission chaired by the Prime Minister. The paper points out lack of funds as a major hurdle in the development of solar energy projects. We lag way behind our neighbor, China in tapping sun power. China has been making massive investments across classes of renewable energy and energy infrastructure upgradation. The difference between India’s and China’s scale can be seen from the fact that India’s total investment in RE projects such as solar, wind and mini-hydel projects is $4 billion in 2010, as against China’s record $54.4 billion.

Globally, the solar sector has experienced the strongest growth in the various clean technologies, driven by small-scale residential projects. The decrease in prices and support from governments in Europe and China has helped solar sector achieve 40 per cent of total RE investments in 2010. In case of India, the cost of solar power is expected to remain significantly above the traditional fuels. The Planning Commission does not envisage any technological breakthrough in solar energy domestically.

The power generation target of 100GW is twice the 50,000 MW capacity, expected to be in the 11th five-year plan period 2007-12. Ambitious targets such as these are must if the GDP growth target of more than 9 per cent is to be met.

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