Maharashtra government likely to focus on renewable energy instead of coal power projects - Alternative Media Forum


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Thursday, 7 May 2015

Maharashtra government likely to focus on renewable energy instead of coal power projects

Mumbai(dna): In a major move, the Maharashtra government may put on hold the state electricity generation utility's plans for the development of new and Greenfield coal-based power projects, barring one in Nashik, to be commissioned with private participation and a pithead-based plant at Chhattisgarh. It instead plans to expand generation capacity in the renewable energy sector.

The state energy department is also planning to cancel the state power generation utility's — Maharashtra State Power Generation Company Limited (MahaGenco) — proposed coal-based projects which were unviable due to higher costs of transporting coal, which would hike power tariffs. The land will instead be used for developing solar energy projects.

"We are planning a pithead-based project and one plant at Nashik. The future expansion in capacity can be based on non-conventional energy," said energy minister Chandrashekhar Bavankule.

The state government is set to unveil its new renewable energy policy which set a target of establishing 14,400MW grid-connected capacity in five years. A solar energy policy and energy conservation policy are also on the anvil.

Bavankule said they would develop a 660MW supercritical power project (which operates on higher efficiencies) in Nashik with private participation in a first-of-its-kind initiative. The private partner will hold a controlling stake of 51% and MahaGenco the remaining 49%, said Bavankule, adding that this would help it benefit from the experience and efficiencies of private players, whose power is cheaper than that of state utilities.

This set will run on a blend of imported and local coal because it's easy to import coal due to the project's proximity to port heads, like Mumbai.

The project, which will generate power at around Rs3.25 per unit, will meet the rising power demand of the "load centres" around Mumbai, said Bavankule, adding that the remaining requirement will be met by the proposed 9,900MW Jaitapur nuclear power project. Incidentally, the Jaitapur plant is being opposed by local residents and BJP's ally — the Shiv Sena.

"We will need to generate around 4,000MW through coal-based plants by 2025," said Bavankule, adding that they also planning around 4,000MW pithead-based power plant near a coal mine allocated to it at Raigarh in Chhattisgarh. The mine has a 27 MMT per year capacity which can generate 4,000MW power for 20 years, he said.

"There will be no transport costs and pollution... The power will cost just around Rs2.50 per unit," said Bavankule. Some of the coal from the mine can also be used to meet the needs of other generating units.

Bavankule said barring Nashik the land for the other proposed thermal power projects in Dondaicha, Paras and Bhusawal would be used for solar energy projects. This is because of higher costs of transporting coal to these plants from mines, including those in far-off Odisha.

Bavankule said rationalisation of coal supplies to MahaGenco's power plants, which included supplying coal from locations closest to them, would save Rs300 crore annually in terms of transport costs.

The MahaGenco has an installed capacity of 11,237MW, including 7,980MW in thermal power, 672MW in gas and 2,585MW in hydro power.

The state also has 6,155MW capacity in the renewable energy sector and the MahaGenco has commissioned around 180MW solar power projects and plans to take it to around 450MW by the end of the 2015-16 financial year, which is one of the highest by state utilities.

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