R K Sachdev | President, Coal Preparation Society of India
Coal supply situation has improved, reversing the acute shortage scenario seen about two years back? Do you see any revival of interest in setting up of new coal-based power plants?
Developers´ interest in setting up of more coal- based generating has not waned yet. The present lull is only a temporary phase. India will continue to be a potential investment destination because of huge demand-supply gap. However, the Government has to generate confidence amongst prospective investors about the stable and predictable policy regime.
What is the current pipeline of new generation capacities coming up and do you see any change in the shares of different fuel sources in the next five years?
Demand for electricity is expected to double, renewable energy sources like solar, wind and biomass will surely see significant increase in capacity but output from these sources will continue to be much below expected standards. Share of gas-based generation will also increase albeit at a slower rate. Coal-based generation will continue to contribute about 70 per cent of the total electricity generation.
India has embarked on an ambitious solar mission, besides focus on other renewable energy sources. How this move is expected to affect the future of coal as a source of power generation?
The Government´s ambitious plan of setting up of Solar Powered plants is in tune with India´s commitment of 35 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2035. However, solar and for that matter wind and other renewables can only help in providing the much needed electricity to over 300 million people who have no access to even one light bulb in their homes.
Our focus should rightly be on distributed generation and distribution of electricity from renewable sources for rural and far flung areas.
Solar power particularly non-storage type can help in rural pumping and similar day light needs. For lighting purpose support of storage technology is inevitable. This obviously will add to the cost.
What are the environmental impacts of coal as a source of power generation? What are the better alternatives that are available based on environmental impact?
Environmental impacts of coal-based generation are well known. Air pollution due to CO2 emission and fly ash are amongst important ones. Bottom ash mangemnt at the power plant and water pollution are also important. However, all these can be mitigated/ contained to a large extent by proper technological applications and good management practices. For example, if washed coal is used these impacts get substantially reduced.
Are there any modern technologies that could help reduce the environmental impact of coal as a source of energy and how?
Today, trend is to adopt High Efficiency Low Emission (HELE) technologies like Ultra Super Critical (USC) and Carbon Caspture and Storage (CCS). While USC is a proven and established technology, CCS has its own positives and negatives.
Which is the best source of energy considering the economics and cost of electricity?
Besides ´economics´ and ´cost´ of electricity another important factor is the availability of a particular fuel/ source of generation. Taking all three factors into account, for Indian situation COAL provides most reliable and cost effective option.
What would be the kind of fuel mix of power generation in India, do you see, say by 2022?
We should not expect much change in the fuel mix of power generation by 2022. Coal will continue to fuel 70 per cent of electricity generation. It could be marginally more, if the economy starts showing an upward trend and we achieve 8 per cent plus growth in the next 5-6 years.
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