As India increasingly eyes renewable, Piyush Goyal says balancing policy against coal tricky

As the country is taking measures to change its energy mix to increase renewable energy contribution, power minister Piyush Goyal acknowledged the contradiction faced by policymakers in the evolving scenario. While releasing a report on renewable energy integration into the power grid, Goyal raised concern on the future of coal-based power plants — which have traditionally been the baseload electricity source. “There is a contradiction in terms of coal-based plant growth, renewable energy integration and grid balance,” Goyal said. While confirming the technical and economic viability of integrating 175 GW of renewable energy into India’s power grid by 2022, the report said in such a situation, the plant load factor (PLF) of coal-based power plants would drop by 13 percentage points to 50%, with 65,000 MW plants running at PLFs below 30%.

To normalise PLFs of coal-based plants, plants which run below 15% PLF would have to be retired, the report added. That translates into 205 generation units, with a capacity of 46,000 MW and investments of more than Rs 2,30,000 crore. Goyal added that the findings of the study, developed under the US-India bilateral programme ‘Greening the Grid’, calls for reorienting the policies and regulations to be in line with a scenario where coal and power availability is surplus and renewable energy is cheaper than thermal power.

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