Given the onset of early summer, how well is the power infrastructure in India prepared to handle the power demand? What is the peak demand expected?
We are very well prepared and have taken steps to ensure no disruptions in the power supply. We have instructed every state that we do not want any load shedding. We expect the demand to increase to almost 230 gigawatts (GW). This will be a record for our country. In the past, our peak demand was at 215 GW, so we need to be ready for an additional 15,000 megawatts (MW). I see this as good news because it is an indicator of our growing economy. For all the critics, the surest indicator of economic growth is the power demand, which this year has gone up by 10.5%.
Please tell us more about the steps that the government has taken to remove logistical constraints in coal supply to ensure availability at power plants.
There have been several logistical constraints in coal supply but this is because the demand was not expected to spiral this high, this quickly. Earlier, coal used to come from the coal fields of Central Coalfields on the northern side of Odisha. Now, much of it is coming from the southern side of the Talcher area. The network was limited but the railways are expanding it. They are buying more rakes as well to address logistical constraints.
Our power plants have about 35 million tonnes of coal stock. There will be no scheduled maintenance to address the power demand. All the plants that were under periodic maintenance have come back on track. We have tied up with imported coal-based and with gas-based plants. We tied up 5,000 MW of the gas-based capacity of NTPC and about 1,500 MW of private gas-based capacity. We have enough capacity to meet our requirements.
How do you envisage India’s renewable energy capacity addition given the slowing pace in recent years and its ambitious target of 500 GW by 2030?
India’s rate of energy transition is the highest in the world. We also have a trajectory planned for renewable capacity addition. We have around 177 GW of non-fossil fuel-based capacity and another 182 GW is under construction. That’s already 259 GW and we have another 30 GW under bidding. We plan to have bids of about 50 GW per year for the next four to five years. This excludes the 125 GW capacity required for green hydrogen.
Our modest target is five million tonnes of green hydrogen production by 2030, and every million tonnes of it requires 25,000 MW. So in effect, we only have to set up 125 GW, which we’ll be able to do without breaking a sweat.
Rooftop solar has been attributed to the slow pace of renewable capacity addition. How is the government planning to give this segment an impetus?
The problem with rooftop solar is that the number of companies in this field needs to grow. We want more companies to set up rooftop solar. We have made the process for applying for it online and it has made the consumer’s life easy. The speed of installation will go up once more companies enter this field. We also plan to come out with regulations whereby any new construction in residential or commercial space will have to have a rooftop.
What is the potential of pumped hydro and battery storage that you envision in maintaining grid stability?
Both are necessary because of their different attributes. Pumped hydro will last for three to four decades but their sites will be limited by geography naturally. With battery, this limitation is not there. Also, the commissioning and gestation period is more for pumped hydro. We expect a pumped hydro capacity of 27,000 MW by 2030, which is not a modest target and for battery, we are looking somewhere in the region of 300 GWh (Gigawatt Hours).
What are your views on protectionist measures by the developed world in the green hydrogen space?
India’s cost of making renewables is the lowest in the world and this will apply also to our cost of producing green hydrogen. We have a country coming out with absurd subsidies, such as $3 per kilogram of green hydrogen. This is a protectionist measure in total violation of the WTO rules. Another country says that the distance between the electrolyser and the place of generation of renewable energy should not be more than 500 KMs. They don’t mind if it is expensive in their country but they don’t want to buy from any other country. These are the questions which need to be put to them. Protectionism has to go if the whole world has to transition.