As per the extant National Electricity Plan, the installed capacity of thermal power plants of the country, comprising coal, gas and diesel-based plants, is likely to be 243,037 MW in 2021-22 out of a total projected installed capacity of 479,419 MW, informed Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Power, New & Renewable Energy RK Singh, as per a release by PIB. The plant load factor (PLF) of coal-based capacity in 2021-22 is likely to be 56.5 per cent.
Singh added that generators supplying power under power purchase agreements (PPAs) will not suffer financial loss owing to underutilisation of their power generation capacity as they are entitled to full recovery of fixed charges from the beneficiaries, subject to achieving normative availability.
He further said that the PLF or generation of thermal (coal or lignite-based) stations depends on total electricity demand in the country, which is affected by weather conditions, growth of electricity demand in various sectors and generation from various other sources like hydro, nuclear, gas, etc. Besides, a ‘must-run status’ has been accorded to renewable energy projects – solar, wind and small hydro. Power from such sources get dispatched on priority and is generally fully utilised. The generation from hydropower plants is commensurate with availability of water and is generally fully utilised. Thus, the utilisation of coal or lignite-based plants depends on balance generation required from thermal stations and the position of the particular plant in the merit order, resulting in thermal stations generally operating on low PLF. The PLF of gas-based generation is low because of non-availability of gas in the country.
The government is also exploring the possibility of cost-effective energy storage systems, such as pumped storage hydro plants, battery storage, etc, so that the electricity generated during the off-peak period can be stored for use during peak period, mentioned Singh, as per the release. This will lead to better utilisation of the power generation capacity of thermal power plants.