Indian Provincial Government Will Close Older Coal Plants

The chief minister of Uttar Pradesh (UP) province in India has announced an agenda to reform the region’s energy sector, starting with the phase-out of older state-owned thermal power plants, as Indian provinces work toward a goal of providing reliable electricity on a consistent basis to more of the country’s population.

Shrikant Sharma, the UP energy minister, recently said the provincial government of Yogi Adityanath wants to shut down plants that have “obsolete machinery and low-performance scores.” Sharma, formerly a director of the UP Power Corporation Limited (UPPCL), told the Business Standard that most of the state-owned power plants in the province need too much work to improve their performance standards, and “The only feasible option would be to permanently shut down these plants and replace their machinery rather than resorting to the stop-gap arrangements … resorted to currently.”

The UP government is planning to close the Panki power plant in Kanpur district, which has two 110-MW coal-fired units. The units were commissioned in the mid-1970s and the plant today generates only about 50 MW. The state also plans to close two older 110-MW units at the Parichha plant (Figure 1) in Jhansi district, which has six coal-fired units with total generation capacity of 1,140 MW; and the Anpara A units at Anpara in Sonbhadra district, which includes three, 210-MW coal-fired units that are part of a nine-unit complex with total generation capacity of 3,830. Sharma also said units at other plants were in need of upgrades, including at the Obra plant in Sonbhadra district, where the first of 13 coal-fired units was commissioned in 1967, with the last unit coming online in 1982. The plant has about 1,300 MW of total generation capacity. The Harduaganj plant in Aligarh also is being looked at, primarily two units totaling 170 MW that were commissioned in 1977 and 1978, respectively. Sharma also said his agency was investigating ongoing, “persistent” problems at a 500-MW Anpara D unit.

Figure 1 - The Uttar Pradesh government has said it will close two older, 110-MW coal-fired units at the Parichha plant in Jhansi district. The plant currently operates six units, with total generation capacity of 1,140 MW. Courtesy: Uttar Pradesh Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Limited (UPRVUNL)

Figure 1 – The Uttar Pradesh government has said it will close two older, 110-MW coal-fired units at the Parichha plant in Jhansi district. The plant currently operates six units, with total generation capacity of 1,140 MW. Courtesy: Uttar Pradesh Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Limited (UPRVUNL)

The Adityanath government in early January said electricity demand in Uttar Pradesh is likely to reach 20,000 MW this summer, and has asked India’s central government, or Centre, to ensure there is an adequate supply of coal for UP power stations. The UP has signed the “Power for All” document with the Centre; “Power for All” is a program of India’s Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, that commits the central government to “improving the quality of life of its citizens by providing 24×7 affordable and environment-friendly ‘Power for All’.” For Uttar Pradesh, the program carries “the objective to connect all unconnected households in a phased manner by 2019 and to ensure 24×7 quality, reliable and affordable power supply to all domestic, commercial and industrial consumers within a fixed timeframe.”

The coal supply across India has been a major concern of provincial governments, power plant operators, and industrial coal consumers over the past few years, as the domestic coal supply has been unable to keep pace with increased coal consumption. Private power companies last year complained that the government-owned Coal India (CIL) has directed more domestic coal to state-owned power plants, and shorted private companies and industrial consumers of their contracted amounts. Some private power companies have had to increase their imports of coal, driving up generation costs, and also spurring generators to look at ways to improve power plant performance. The UP government, in addition to phasing out under-performing plants, also has asked the legislature in a supplementary budget for nearly 7 billion rupees (about $110 million) to upgrade power distribution systems and to help UPPCL upgrade transmission lines in the province. Sharma also has asked for construction work on new UP power plants to be expedited; more than a dozen units currently are being built in the province, according to government reports.

Darrell Proctor is a POWER associate editor (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine)