India’s Push for Flexibility in Coal-fired Power Plants to Support Renewable Energy Integration


India’s coal-fired power plants are being encouraged to become more flexible in order to meet new load demands as the country faces delays in the addition of 175GW renewable energy sources due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Hon’ble Minister of Power recently launched a report that recommends conducting low load tests on thermal generating units and tuning them effectively to meet new load demands.


The report highlights the importance of utilizing existing thermal resources for flexibilization in the system safely and securely before adopting newer options, such as battery storage systems, on a large scale. It also emphasizes the need for thermal generating units to be flexible enough to support the integration of more renewables into the power grid.


According to the report, the Thermal Power Plants (TPP) fleet is expected to operate at an average minimum load of 40% in the near future. This will drastically impact the schedule of most of the conventional generating plants and lead to operating thermal power plants at part load. Hence, thermal generating units will need to be tuned in a very effective and efficient manner to meet the new load demands. If any gaps are found, they will need to be fixed.

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Currently, about 70% of India’s energy demand is being met from thermal generation, making it essential to ensure that maximum flexible power is available from thermal power plants. The report suggests that if measures are implemented for operation of TPPs at 40% load instead of the present 55% minimum load, then it will be possible to achieve about 21GW additional flexible power from the thermal fleet. It also notes that 21.18 GW (76.56-55.38) more renewable integration is possible by lowering the minimum load from 55% to 40%.  After implementing low load operation up to 40% at thermal generating units, if further flexible power is required it can be available from 2-shift operation of old & small size thermal generating units. These units may run 6 to 7 hrs only during peak grid demand period or 6 to 7 hrs. shutting down during peak solar generation period.


The report concludes that coal-fired power plants remain the main source of flexible power, and the operators must undergo training for the implementation of flexibilization. Added precautions must also be taken to prevent catastrophic equipment failure.

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Overall, the report is expected to help Indian utilities achieve flexibility in their units and support the integration of more renewables into the power grid. By making coal-fired power plants more flexible, India can ensure that it has reliable power supply while also reducing its reliance on fossil fuels.

View the report here

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