Report recommends no new coal plants for India as prospects for batteries improve

An expert committee in India is recommending that the country stop building new coal-fired power plants, after concluding that renewables can meet all future need for electricity.

Jharia Coal mine
India ‘can’t escape’ coal phasedown, needs funding to drive just transition for 33 million workers. Image: TripodStories- AB, CC BY-SA 4.0

An expert committee in India is recommending that the country stop building new coal-fired power plants, after concluding that renewables can meet all future need for electricity.

“The committee, headed by former Central Electricity Authority (CEA) chair Gireesh Pradhan, found the addition of low-cost renewable energy capacity would handle the expected growth in electricity demand,” the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) reports. “It also found the overall coal fleet was underutilised, averaging 55 per cent capacity utilisation,” though that capacity factor will improve as demand rises.

The report calls for India to replace retired coal capacity with 450 gigawatts (GW) of “variable renewables” capacity by 2030, writes IEEFA Energy Finance Analyst Kashish Shah, with peak power supplied through a combination of batteries and pumped storage, conventional gas and coal, and hydropower.

Many other jurisdictions have looked to gas-fired power plants, with their flexibility to ramp up and down quickly, to meet peak demand. But Shah says a lack of domestic supply has kept gas plants and India to a utilisation rate below 20 per cent.

And now, gas isn’t the only option to accommodate sudden changes in demand. “In terms of flexibility, battery storage is the most proven technology to provide fast ramp-up and ramp-down energy dispatch and fast frequency service,” he writes. “Batteries ramp up to full load in a minute and can also absorb excess power from the grid.”

With system costs falling fast over the last decade, Shah says solar+storage is cost-competitive with new coal plants and “burgeoning” in the United States and Australia. And recent market and regulatory changes could bring those trends to India, as well.

“ReNew Power, one of the biggest renewable energy developers in India, and Fluence Energy, a leading battery technology provider, have announced a joint venture to develop a 150-MWh storage facility in Karnataka,” he reports. “The cost of batteries could reduce further with local manufacture,” and government support is on the way to help build up localised battery value chains.

This story was published with permission from The Energy Mix.

 
 

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