Badarpur power plant became synonymous with Delhi pollution after Government declared emergency in November 2016 owing to severe levels of toxic air pollution. According to a report issued by IIT Kanpur, the plant contributes an average of 11% to Delhi’s ultra-fine PM 2.5 particles. This number is astonishing since the plant only supplies 7.9% electricity to the city in peak summer months.
Centre for Science and Environment released India’s first ever environmental rating of coal-based power plants in 2015. The ratings, based on a 2-year long research done on 47 plants, covering half of the sector, spread over 16 states, revealed that Badarpur power plant was the most inefficient one in India.
The 705 MW coal fired power plant was setup in-order to cater to electrical needs of neighbouring states of Haryana, Punjab, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Rajasthan. However, since 1987, the entire power generated from the power station is being utilized for meeting the demand of Delhi itself.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution-Prevention and Control Authority (EPCA) announced that the power plant will be shut by July 2018 for good. To compensate for the loss of generated power, 4 sub-stations are being setup at Tughlakabad, Rajghat, Karampura and Papankalan at an estimated cost of Rs. 7,500 Cr. When the plant re-opened in March after remaining shut for a while, Greenpeace India said in a note that the plant is highly inefficient and produces only 1,700 million units annually on an average out of the 2,000 million units it is expected to produce. That accounts for 36.6% capacity utilisation if all 5 units are running or nearly 260MW running load.
Let’s talk about a few alternatives to this.
Generate clean energy: A 1kW solar power plant in Delhi produces nearly 1,700 units annually which means that to compensate for the energy generated by BTPS, a 1GW solar power plant would suffice. It’s interesting to note that a 1GW solar power plant would cost somewhere between Rs. 3,000 and Rs. 5,000 Cr, much less than the government is currently planning to invest in coal/gas based power plants.
Reduce your consumption: It is interesting to note that Delhi’s per capita consumption is over 1,500 units annually whereas national per capita consumption stands close to 1,000 units annually. This amounts to 28,500 million units of annual consumption in national capital. Delhi has been called out for its high power consumption on multiple occasions. Taking into consideration 18% average T&D losses, Delhi needs to reduce its consumption by roughly 1,550 million units annually (~ 5%) to eliminate the need of BTPS (Badarpur Thermal Power Station).
Energy efficiency through retrofits: Government’s UJALA scheme launched in 2015, claims to have alone reduced Delhi’s peak demand by 296MW so far by distributing nearly 11.4 million LEDs. LED bulbs distributed under this scheme cost Rs. 50; consumers are allowed to buy them with an initial payment of Rs. 10 and the balance in monthly instalments of Rs. 10.
Operational energy efficiency: It has been proven that data driven operational energy efficiency measures can reduce demand by 10-30%. Companies like Zenatix are working in this sector to optimize the consumption thereby reducing the need of generation.
Efficiency in energy sector has always remained out of limelight. But with growing awareness around pollution and climate change, consumers are moving towards optimization of their energy consumption. However, there is still a long way to go. The numerous premature deaths and years of suffering due to poor air quality could have been avoided had the government shifted its focus towards energy efficiency a decade ago when BTPS started becoming a nuisance.