Electricity demand in India has grown an average 4% per annum over last 30 years. Given the current rapid economic expansion, the demand will grow much faster. For the Indian economy to grow at 9% annually, additional capacity of 60 GW must be added every five years. Government’s promise of 100% electricity to domestic users will push up consumption.
Besides the increasing demand for power, gross inefficiencies and chaotic functioning of the power sector puts further pressure on power supply. For instance, the transmission and distribution networks are highly inefficient – experts say that there is 30 – 40% power loss. Financial health of the state electricity boards is poor. Capacity utilization is very poor:
- Most hydro and thermal power stations operate at 87% load factor.
- Thermal plants face shortage of coal
- Nuclear power plants operate at 50% loads, due to shortage of uranium
- In 2008, four gas based power projects were idle due to lack of fuel linkage
As of December 2010, the installed power generation capacity of India stood at 169 GW and is trying to add another 78 GW by 2012. The demand for electricity is expected to be about 1,000 GW by 2030. It has invested heavily in renewable energy, particularly in the wind energy – current installed capacity is about 13 GW. It also aims to produce 20 GW from solar power and 30 GW from nuclear energy in next 10-15 years. An investment of US $55 billion is expected by 2015 in the renewable energy sector, generating 35 GW power.
India is rich in coal and renewable energy sources (solar, wind, hydro and bio-energy sources) but it has very less hydrocarbon reserve (0.4% of world’s reserve). Given the limited domestic fossil fuel reserves,Indiadepends on fossil fuel imports to meet its energy demands. In 2009-10, the import of crude oil alone accounted for 31% of the country’s total imports. So, it has ambitious plans to expand its renewable and nuclear power industries. It envisages increasing the contribution of nuclear power to overall electricity generation capacity from 3% to 9% within 25 years.
Impetus to current nuclear power initiatives has clearly come from the lifting of the 34 year old nuclear technology ban afterIndiaand US signed the nuclear cooperation treaty in 2008. Two things are clear from the above charts. One, there is tremendous scope for contribution from the private sector that produces less than 20% of the national requirement. Two, commitment to reduction in greenhouse gases to mitigate climate change demands that use of coal should be reduced for power generation. Nuclear energy along with renewable sources can achieve this goal.
However, India needs to move with caution because the recent Fukushima nuclear disaster has triggered anti-nuclear sentiments across the world and countries are reviewing their nuclear energy programs. Question people want to ask is: If Japan isn’t capable of protecting its nuclear power plants from earthquakes/tsunamis, is India smarter?
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