We at POWER TODAY while pondering over the ´right´ energy mix for India, were drawn toward specific examples like Norway, whose energy dependency on the hydro power sector is 90 per cent; and France, where almost 75 per cent of energy comes from nuclear power. Similarly, other European countries too have particular sources of power dominating their energy space. However, before penning down our suggestions, we would first like the readers to dwell upon India´s present energy mix.
Following the last 10 years of central planning, India has reached about 260 GW of total power generation, through institutions such as state power corporations, NTPC, NHPC and large IPPs, which has contributed significantly towards this figure. The current generation capacity mix has 62 per cent contribution from the thermal power sector, followed by a distant second hydro (15 per cent) and lastly 9 per cent from gas-based projects. The remaining 14 per cent share is from renewable and nuclear combined.
Geographically, if we look at the energy resource map of India, major coal reserves with the potential of generating 1.50 lakh MW of thermal power, are located in eastern and central Indian states such as Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha.
Meanwhile, the Himalayan terrain has huge potential for hydro electricity and the costal belts have possibilities for development of imported coal-based thermal plants. Additionally, states like Rajasthan, Gujarat, Telangana and MP, provide opportunity for solar power generation.
While it is important to have a long term vision for the most appropriate energy mix for India, our policy makers will also need to review the need for power evacuation infrastructure for the entire sector. Meanwhile, renewable energy has been creating a bigger buzz since the past one year. Considering our current position in the renewable sector and the projected growth (176 GW) over eight years, the target seems at the same time phenomenal and daunting. However, the major question still left unanswered, is whether we are fully prepared to bring in the right kind of investments, market and transmission infrastructure to evacuate this massive variable nature of capacity additions. If continued to be unanswered, this then is a cause for serious concern, as the absence of these would render the 176 GW of renewable power ineffective without proper grid management.
But our view is that that strategic energy mix need not have anything to do with what is the current situation, but should instead driven by our resource-base and demand patterns. Thus, as promised, here is our humble suggestion for the future energy mix. Firstly, for base load, a substantial capacity of coal-fired thermal power can take on the lion´s share of 60 per cent of the demand. The rest can come from hydro and gas to the extent of 20-25 per cent for the seasonal and transient variation. We all know that India has vast deposits of coal with high ash content which is suitable for thermal power generation. In an emerging country like ours, growth phase must place higher priority to reducing cost of generation and availability of power rather than on climate change and Co2 emission.
In this context, it is worth noting that the Chairman of a leading international mining and commodity trading company was recently quoted as saying, ´People had to recognize it was simply not possible to remove coal from the energy mix in countries such as India, as even with the best will in the world, solar is not an answer to broad scale industrialization.´
What he perhaps meant is that solar power is too intermittent to guarantee steady and reliable power supply for the heavy industry. Renewables will of course also play a role, but considering the Indian conditions, it should range within 10-15 per cent of the capacity share of our energy mix.
At the end, the government should have an economic approach towards the various source of energy available to us and how these sources can judicially juggled to obtain the lowest cost of energy for the common man.
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