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Aimed At Reducing Carbon Intensity, India To Sign Deal With Japan To Retrofit Low-Efficiency Coal Power Plants

Keeping with its announced target of reducing carbon intensity by 20-25% by 2020, India is looking to improve the efficiency of its coal-fired power plants. India’s Central Electricity Authority is in talks with the Japan Coal Energy Center over a Memorandum of Understanding which would help India access technical and financial help to retrofit old and inefficient coal power plants.

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Although no official word is out, Indian daily Mint has quoted unnamed officials saying that under the deal plants having low efficiencies would be identified and their efficiencies would be improved through financial and technical add-ons. Many Indian states are not in a position to afford the costly technical improvements in the power plants. Japan has played a major role in financing important infrastructure projects in India and thus can provide assistance in this regard too.

India agreed to reduce its carbon intensity by 20-25% under pressure after China announced a similar but more ambitious target just before the Copenhagen climate summit. India’s main source of power generation has been coal for many decades – coal gained prevalence over the years as small hydro’s contribution dwindled. Over the last few years, as the demand for coal has risen – partially because of rapidly increasing demand and poor efficiency of plants – the supply has not been able to keep up the pace. As a result, India had to import coal from other countries.

Another problem with Indian coal is that it has high ash content and low calorific value, which means more units of coal is required to generate a unit of electricity with excessive genration of ash. The calorific value of India coal is low while that of Indonesian or Australian coal is high. Coal is important for India’s economic and social growth as government plans to connect thousands of villages to the grid in the coming years. Coal not only provides the cheapest solution but also ensures a great degree of energy security since India has substantial coal reserves.

But with rapid industrialization and electrification the problem of carbon emissions would arise especially when developed countries would call for mandatory emission targets from India.

With renewable energy still very costly and shortfall in coal supplies, energy efficiency seems to be the best way forward. There has been significant interest in Integrated Gas Combined Cycle (IGCC) power plants in the recent past. IGCC plants are much more efficient than conventional coal-fired power plants and generate more power per unit of gas/coal used. Such plants can be fed with natural gas or synthetic gas produced by gasifying coal. Gasification of coal produces a mixture of mainly carbon monoxide and hydrogen which has lower calorific value than natural gas but high than coal since the percentage of hydrogen increases after gasification.

Gasification technology is fairly new to the developing countries which do not have many such plants. But in order to make a smooth transition to renewable energy and ensuring energy security it is important that energy efficiency and intermediate cleaner energy sources are tapped.

Under the MoU, the plan is to identify less-efficient power plants and then identify the best possible way of improving their efficiency. Substantial improvement in efficiency can be achieved either through use of better and high calorific value fuel or use of more efficient technology. India would not like to increase its dependence on foreign coal and thus retrofitting and possibly transforming conventional coal power plants to gasifier-based combined cycle power plants would be the most apt solution.

via Mint

Image Credit: davipt (Creative Commons | Flickr)

The views presented in the above article are author’s personal views and do not represent those of TERI/TERI University where the author is currently pursuing a Master’s degree.

 
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Written By

Mridul currently works as Head-News & Data at Climate Connect Limited, a market research and analytics firm in the renewable energy and carbon markets domain. He earned his Master’s in Technology degree from The Energy & Resources Institute in Renewable Energy Engineering and Management. He also has a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering. Mridul has a keen interest in renewable energy sector in India and emerging carbon markets like China and Australia.

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