Gas for the power sector is better than coal, says CEA

Vol 13, PW 7 (10 Sep 09) People & Policy

Those who believe gas should play a bigger role in generating electricity have found an unlikely ally in the Central Electricity Authority, the technical arm of the power ministry.

On August 24, the CEA delivered a compelling 10-page argument to power secretary Harishankar Brahma, saying environmental considerations and India’s inability to meet coal production targets would mean it has no choice but to promote gas. “To meet our C02 emission (targets),â€‌ writes the CEA, “substantial gas-based capacity is required.

â€‌ In India, coal has long been the dominant fuel for the country’s power sector, accounting for 52% of the country’s installed generating capacity of 151,000-MW. Gas by contrast accounts for little more than 11%.

This has to change, according to the CEA, if India wants to reach its target of adding 75,200-MW to the country’s thermal electricity generation capacity by the end of the 12th five-year plan in 2017. “If the entire requirement of thermal capacity is met from coal-based generation,â€‌ adds the CEA, “then CO2 emissions from this additional capacity will be about 300m tonnes and CO2 emissions of the power sector will increase from 488m tonnes (now) to 1000m tonnes by 2017.

â€‌ More, domestic coal production can’t keep up with demand. “Coal India has indicated additional production of 100m tonnes of coal during the 12th five-year plan,â€‌ writes the CEA.

“This may not even be adequate to meet the full requirement of coal-based capacity under construction during the 11th plan (2007-12)!â€‌ Instead, says the CEA, the power ministry should press the oil ministry to “immediatelyâ€‌ set aside 90m cm/d for an additional 25,000-MW gas-fired capacity planned between 2012-17. “There is a need to promote gas-based generation to reduce our (CO2) emissions in the power sector,â€‌ concludes the note.

“Besides being environmentally benign, gas projects have high efficiency rates, a low gestation period and provide flexibility in operation.â€‌