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US climate change scholars to India: Depend on solar, wind, nuclear power to avoid cost overruns, CO2 emission

Kodankulam nuclear power plant, Tamil Nadu
By Our Representative
Top US-based researchers have warned that average costs for plants coming online in 2020 are Rs 4.40 per kWh (or unit) for domestic coal and Rs 5.15 kWh for imported coal, which is considerably more than the prices for photovoltaic solar and onshore wind power – Rs 2.97 per kWh and INR 3.46 per kWh, respectively, wondering why India consists on having new coal-fired plants.
Pointing out that “the country’s current coal proposals will likely lead to either more underused or 'stranded' coal plants, and/or lock-out of lower carbon and potentially less costly electricity sources”, the researchers have said, already this is starting to happen.
“From 2010 to May 2016”, say the scholars, “just over 261 GW of coal-fired capacity was implemented (i.e., in construction or completed) while 431 GW was halted (i.e., shelved or canceled)”, with “an overall implementation rate of 38%.”
“Many plant proposals were deferred or abandoned due to issues such as financial distress by the proponents, difficulty securing a coal supply, lack of power demand from cash-strapped state electricity distribution companies, and an inability to secure permitting or compulsory land acquisition because of community resistance”, they underline.
In their paper in an open access journal, “Earth's Future”, the scholars Christine Shearer (at CoalSwarm, San Francisco, California, USA), Robert Fofrich and Steven J. Davis (both at Department of Earth System Science, University of California at Irvine, Irvine, California, USA), given the cost overruns, fresh proposals will lead to “a potential loss in capital investment.”
They insist, “Plant construction costs are estimated at USD$1290/kW in South Asia”, with any new plants leading to what they call “potential stranded assets — plants that are unneeded and therefore operating well below their optimal utilization rates or retired early, leading to lost revenues.”
They add, “Here, the excess coal plant capacity represents USD$18 (Rs 1.2 trillion) to USD$230 billion (Rs 15.37) in potentially wasted capital expenditures, without accounting for fuel or maintenance costs.”
No doubt, the scholars point out, “In India, where over 20% of the population (∼300 million people) lack access to electricity”, one reason why “expansion of energy infrastructure has been seen as a crucial factor for human and economic development.”
Naturally, they add, “Given India’s large coal reserves (estimated at 87 billion metric tons [Gt])”, there is “heavy reliance of its existing energy system on coal (44% of total primary energy and 70% of electricity generation in 2015).”
Not only would depending on coal mean huge cost overruns. According to the scholars, it would adversely impact international efforts towards climate change. Thus, while the already operating coal plants have emitted about 11 Gt of CO2 since 1960, if operated for forty years at a 75% capacity factor, currently operating coal plants would emit an additional 31 Gt through 2065.”
They warn, “Coal plants under construction would add 14 Gt over their lifetimes, and proposed coal plants another 38 Gt, for a total of 83 Gt of CO2 emissions from the country’s coal plants in 2016–2065.”
To avoid all this, the scholars insist, the Government of India should do well to focus increasing “non-fossil electricity capacity” by installing its already “100 GW of solar power and 60 GW of wind power by 2022 (over the current levels of 7 and 26 GW, respectively), and raising nuclear capacity from 6 GW presently to 63 GW in 2032.”

Comments

Ramesh Muthya said…
Understood but why is nuclear getting a big recco? World is rejecting it by India has to welcome it? Seems to have unstated motives ?

Ramesh

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