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Power firms to increase focus on supercritical plants, green capacity

The move comes as the govt is likely to announce tougher carbon emission targets by January 2015 when US President Barack Obama visits the country

Sudheer Pal Singh  |  New Delhi 

The government is planning to announce tougher carbon emission targets but Indian power companies are already ramping up installing high-efficiency supercritical machines apart from boosting green energy generation capacities.

Enhanced targets could push the goal post further. The Indian government is likely to announce new, bigger and more effective climate change targets by January 2015 when US President Barack Obama visits the country. The announcement is likely to include an “aspirational “ peaking year for India's greenhouse gas emissions and stricter emission intensity targets.

“We will exercise multiple options available to us for a more sustainable and environment-friendly development of capacities. This includes increasing focus on supercritical plants, “ a senior executive from NTPC Ltd, India's largest power generator, said. “Our renewable energy targets will also become more ambitious. “

Supercritical plants are up to 10 per cent more costly than the traditional subcritical machines but produce less carbon dioxide for every unit of generation. Every 1 per cent increase in efficiency leads to a 2.5 per cent cut in carbon dioxide emissions per unit of generation in a supercritical plant.

NTPC has over 2,600 Megawatt (Mw) of supercritical capacity out of a total of 43,000 Mw of total installed base of generation capacity.

“Already, we have over 16,000 Mw of supercritical capacity under construction at various locations. The plan may be further boosted, “ the executive said. NTPC also plans to increase its renewable capacity base from the current 95 Mw to 1,000 Mw by 2017.

India’s total carbon dioxide emissions stand at 1,745 million tonne annually with per capita carbon dioxide emission at 1.5 mt, much lower than the world average of 4.5 mt.

However, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had announced in 2007 that India is determined to see its per capita emission never exceed those for developed countries. Also, the government had in 2008 committed to a 20-25 per cent cut in its carbon intensity by 2020, over 2005 levels.

The new climate change strategy may include revision of these targets. At 38 per cent, electricity sector is the largest contributor to India's total carbon emissions followed by agriculture sector (17.5 per cent), transport sector (7.4 per cent), residential sector (7.2 per cent) and cement sector (6.8 per cent). India has a current installed power generation capacity of 253,000 Mw. Supercritical plants account for less than 30 per cent of total coal-based capacity. The country plans to ramp up supercritical machines' share in total coal-based capacity to 50 per cent by the end of the current Plan period and 90 per cent in the 13th Plan ending in 2022.

A power sector executive said the government’s focus on implementation of Renewable Purchase Obligations (RPOs) targets by states would help the nation meet its renewed commitment to fight climate change. Under the RPO regime, state distribution utilities have to mandatorily procure a certain part of their power purchase from green sources like solar and wind generators. The idea is to push installation of renewable capacities.

Data show India may not have succeeded in curbing carbon emissions as expected, at least in the power sector. According to the latest carbon dioxide baseline database sourced from the Central Electricity Authority (CEA), the weighted average emission rate of Indian power plants declined consistently from 0.82 tonnes of CO2 per MWhour in 2008-09 to 0.78 TCO2 per Mwh in 2011-12 but rose to 0.83 TCO2 per Mwh in 2012-13.

An expert group on low carbon strategies headed by former Planning Commission member Kirit Parikh had in May 2014 recommended a host of measures to realign India's carbon mitigation schemes including market linked pricing of fossil fuels, cess on generation, streamlining policies for energy efficient buildings and use of energy efficient equipment in industry.

While the recommendations are under discussion, the Union cabinet had on Tuesday cleared the final brief for the negotiating delegation to the Lime talks on climate change, led by environment minister Prakash Javadekar, that began on Monday.

First Published: Sat, December 06 2014. 22:54 IST