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Surge in Coal Based Power Generation

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy, Industry and Infrastructure

Why in News?

The coal based power generation in India has made a commendable progress from April to January 2024 registering a growth of 6.60 % in power generation compared to the corresponding period in the previous year.  

  • Particularly striking was the significant 10.06% growth in coal-based power generation during this period.
  • The import of coal has witnessed a significant decrease of 36.69%, despite the surge in demand.
  • This exemplifies the nation’s steadfast commitment to achieving self-reliance in coal production and minimizing overall coal imports.
  • Currently, India is witnessing a substantial surge in power requirements, propelled by industrial expansion, technological advancements and economic development etc.

What is Coal?

  • Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock rich in carbon and hydrocarbons that takes millions of years to develop, making it a non-renewable energy source.
  • Coal is also known as black gold
  • It contains energy stored by plants that flourished hundreds of millions of years ago in swampy forests.
  • Coal is made up of carbon, volatile matter, moisture, and ash, as well as [in some situations] sulphur and phosphorus.
  • Metallurgy and power generation are the most common applications for this material.

What is the extent of India’s dependence on coal?

  • As of February 2022, the installed capacity for coal-based power generation across the country was 2.04 lakh megawatt (MW).
  • This accounts for about 51.5% of power from all sources.
  • This compares with about 25,000 MW of capacity based on natural gas as fuel, or a mere 6.3% of all installed capacity.
  • Renewable power accounted for 1.06 lakh MW or 27%.
  • Coal-based power stations are retired periodically which happens all the time.
  • But is not fast enough nor are new additions being halted. And with good reason – coal is still inexpensive compared with other sources of energy.
  • For FY20, for example, India added 6,765 MW power capacity based on coal as fuel. But only 2,335 MW was retired.
  • According to the IEA’s Coal Report 2021, India’s coal consumption will increase at an average annual rate of 3.9% to 1.18 billion tonnes in 2024.

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