India’s ambitious strides in decarbonization and the transition to renewable power have seen her emerging as a country with the most number of coal-based generation projects cancelled between 2010 and 2017.
The findings of a study by the US-based Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis (IEEFA) show India cancelled 464,727 coal-based generation projects planned since 2010. The portfolio of coal-fired projects includes those in varying stages, from conception to grant of permissions. Next to India is the Asian hegemon China which abandoned coal-based projects totaling a capacity of 296,780 Mw. Vietnam ranks next to China with 30,750 Mw of coal-powered projects in the pipeline meeting the same fate followed by Turkey (29204 Mw), US (26873 Mw), Germany (18393 Mw), Russia (18048 Mw) and Poland (16783 Mw).
“Since the start of 2010, through postponements and cancellations, India’s coal plant pipeline has shrunk by 547 GW (or 547,000 Mw). To put that number in perspective, it’s helpful to remember that it amounts to almost three times Germany’s total installed capacity”, Tim Buckley, director of energy finance (Australasia) at IEEFA said in a report.
NTPC Ltd, the country's largest owner and developer of coal-based plants recently shelved its 4000 Mw Pudimadaka ultra mega power plant (UMPP) project in Andhra Pradesh. IEEFA observed that the decision to cancel the country's largest planned new coal-fired station is just the latest step in India's remarkable and ongoing energy transition.
As of now, more than 80,000 Mw of coal-fired capacities are shown as still progressing through approval processes. IEEFA, however, estimates that only 10,000-20,000 Mw of the planned capacity may actually see the light of the day, signifying an effective cancellation of 84 per cent of the country's 2010 coal pipeline.
Both India and China have an overbuild of coal-fired capacity and in India, the growth of electricity demand has not been as high as predicted. This has shrunk the load at most of the coal-based generation plants. Moreover, the growing traction of renewable power sources like solar and wind due to plummeting tariffs at their auctions has also contributed to the falling demand for thermal power. Renewable energy sources are expected to dominate India's energy mix in the coming decade. In last fiscal, the country's capacity addition in power was slowest in the past five years at 17,200 Mw with the share of renewables to fresh capacity build up being 69 per cent. China, too, is moving to reduce its dependence on coal amid mounting pollution concerns. In contrast, in US where gas supplies are cheaper, coal-fired thermal power is outstripped by gas-fired and renewable energy plants.
To fuel India's renewable energy plans, the Ministry of Power, in its National Energy Plan of 2018 has forecast closures of 48,000 Mw end of cycle coal-based stations. The coal-fired plants that have completed 25 years in generation are to be wound up. “If the capacity closure occurs, then India is now rapidly approaching peak thermal coal. The coal industry will no doubt question this conclusion, but underlying it are irrefutable numbers”, Buckley noted.