Climate: How Delhi can transition to cleaner, green power

Interviews and analyses by HT showed that reasons range from the increasing power purchase costs of these ageing plants to a larger collective will to combat air pollution. It is also because of the availability of more alternatives in the renewable energy sector
Smoke billows from a power station during sunset in New Delhi in this February 16, 2005 file photo. (File photo) PREMIUM
Smoke billows from a power station during sunset in New Delhi in this February 16, 2005 file photo. (File photo)
Updated on Sep 21, 2021 04:01 PM IST
Copy Link

In November 2016, as the national Capital’s air quality dipped severely and the Great Delhi Smog enveloped the city for almost a week, Delhi was sourcing at least 82% of its electricity from polluting coal-fired power stations, commonly known as thermal power plants. About five years later, around 57% of Delhi’s average annual power supply of about 3,700 MW now comes from thermal power houses.

While a reduction of about 25% in five years is notable, experts say that Delhi still has a long way to go. However, it is worth finding out how Delhi is managing to reduce electricity procurement from thermal power plants at a time when the city’s peak demand has touched all-time highs of 7,409 MW and 7,323 MW in 2019 and 2021 respectively, when at least 86% of India’s total power generation continues to be from coal-fired plants?

Interviews and analyses by HT showed that reasons range from the increasing power purchase costs of these ageing plants to a larger collective will to combat air pollution. It is also because of the availability of more alternatives in the renewable energy sector, its competitive pricing, and stricter compliance norms in the past four years.

At present, 50-60% of Delhi’s power is still sourced from coal-fired plants. Data of the past 10 days showed that about 57% of Delhi’s electricity supply is sourced from coal-fired plants, 18% is hydropower, 13% from gas-based stations, 10.2% from solar energy, 1.6% is wind energy and the balance (0.2%) is from waste-to-energy (WTE) plants in the city. To be sure, electricity drawal is dynamic and the percentages can marginally vary depending on weather conditions which triggers power demand in the city.

But a major development is that now only 8% of the 50-60% coal-based electricity is being sourced from unclean sources. “By unclean sources, we mean dirty coal and thermal plants that are yet to comply with emission norms. Until October 2019, Delhi was procuring nearly one-third of its electricity from unclean thermal plants,” said Samrat Sengupta, programme director, climate change and renewable energy at the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

Also Read | DU Reopening 2021: Delhi University shares fake news notice regarding reopening

A recent CSE study stated that Delhi’s “significant improvement” over the last year and a half in getting power from clean sources happened because the Singrauli thermal power plant also switched to cleaner options. At present, only the Chandrapur thermal power plant is providing Delhi with unclean energy, in terms of SO2 norms.

Sengupta called the closure of the 45-year-old Badarpur thermal power station (BTPS) a turning point. “The 705 MW plant was being operated even when no one — be it the private distribution companies [discoms] or the Delhi government — wanted to procure electricity from it. It was not only highly polluting, but the cost of power was also about 45% lower than what discoms were getting from other sources at that time. It was an old plant because of which its costs were high,” he said.

In a series in March 2017, HT highlighted that the plant produced a mammoth 3,500 metric tonnes of flyash every month. At least 11% of Delhi’s ultra-fine respirable particles or PM 2.5 was contributed by BTPS alone. Before that, in 2015, the Rajghat power plant in Delhi was shut.

Over a year later, BTPS was finally shut in October 2018. “Around the same time, the pricing of solar power also began to reduce and discoms started looking at renewables as an alternative. But, that was also not totally out of their own will. It was also a time when the discoms were repeatedly faltering on achieving their renewable procurement targets,” Sengupta said.

Achieving the yearly RPO targets

Under The Electricity Act, 2003, all electricity distribution licensees (discoms) have to purchase or produce a minimum specified quantity of their requirements from renewable energy sources such as solar power, wind energy or hydropower. This mandated portion of procurement is known as renewable purchase obligation (RPO).

Data from the state power department, accessed by HT, showed that in the last five years, the average procurement of renewable energy of all the four discoms in Delhi has more than doubled. The discoms include BSES Yamuna Power Limited (BYPL), BSES Rajdhani Power Limited (BRPL), Tata Power-DDL, and New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC). In 2016-17, the average renewable purchase of all the four discoms was 4.67%, which increased to 10.36% in 2020-21.

Even though the share of renewables is increasing in the city’s power distribution sector, it is not happening at the pace mandated by the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC). In 2016-17, the power regulator set the RPO target at 9%. This meant that every discom in the city had to source at least 9% of their total electricity procurement for that year from renewable energy. In 2017-18, this was 11.5%, and by 2020-21, the RPO target for each discom was set at 17.50%.

Reports showed that three of the four discoms — BRPL, BYPL, and NDMC — have repeatedly failed in achieving the yearly RPO targets set by the power regulator. The BYPL has been the biggest defaulter with its RPO target deficits only increasing year after year. From a shortfall of 7.7% in achieving the RPO mandate in 2016-17, the BYPL’s deficit increased to 15.33% in 2019-20 during which it could source only 1.67% of its power from a targeted RPO of 17%.

When asked, a BSES spokesperson said that at present, around 28% of long-term arrangements of the BSES (BRPL and BYPL combined) comprise green power, which includes pure-play renewable power of over 15% and about 13% of hydropower. “The share of green energy in Reliance Infrastructure led BSES’s power portfolio has been progressively increasing over time. BSES is replacing costly power from old thermal plants, whose PPAs have expired, with renewables now,” said the spokesperson.

Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited (TPDDL), which supplies power to north and northwest Delhi, is the only discom in the city that has managed to meet 100% of the RPO targets every year since 2016.

The problem of missing RPO targets is not just in Delhi. A Niti Aayog report, Turning around the power distribution sector, published last month stated: “In 2019–20, only four states—already rich in RE generation—achieved or exceeded their RPO target: Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu. Only a stringent implementation of the RPO mandate would ensure a fairer distribution of the excess cost of absorbing RE.”

In 2019, DERC slapped a penalty of 2.88 crore each on BYPL and BRPL and 1.71 crore on TPDDL for defaulting on RPO. These were imposed for default in the years 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2015-15. But at that time (2012-2015), the BSES discoms requested deferment of RPOs because the cost of renewable energy was extremely high, some went as high as even 15 per unit.

This year, the power regulator notified fresh RPO targets under the DERC (Renewable Purchase Obligation and Renewable Energy Certificate Framework Implementation) Regulations, 2021. Under this, the RPO target for this year is 17.5% of which 7.25% has to be from solar power alone. By 2022-23, the RPO target for each discom in Delhi will be 21.35%.

 

Even though the share of renewables is increasing in the city’s power distribution sector, it is not happening at the pace mandated by the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC). In 2016-17, the power regulator set the RPO target at 9%. This meant that every discom in the city had to source at least 9% of their total electricity procurement for that year from renewable energy. In 2017-18, this was 11.5%, and by 2020-21, the RPO target for each discom was set at 17.50%.

Reports showed that three of the four discoms — BRPL, BYPL, and NDMC — have repeatedly failed in achieving the yearly RPO targets set by the power regulator. The BYPL has been the biggest defaulter with its RPO target deficits only increasing year after year. From a shortfall of 7.7% in achieving the RPO mandate in 2016-17, the BYPL’s deficit increased to 15.33% in 2019-20 during which it could source only 1.67% of its power from a targeted RPO of 17%.

When asked, a BSES spokesperson said that at present, around 28% of long-term arrangements of the BSES (BRPL and BYPL combined) comprise green power, which includes pure-play renewable power of over 15% and about 13% of hydropower. “The share of green energy in Reliance Infrastructure led BSES’s power portfolio has been progressively increasing over time. BSES is replacing costly power from old thermal plants, whose PPAs have expired, with renewables now,” said the spokesperson.

Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited (TPDDL), which supplies power to north and northwest Delhi, is the only discom in the city that has managed to meet 100% of the RPO targets every year since 2016.

The problem of missing RPO targets is not just in Delhi. A Niti Aayog report, Turning around the power distribution sector, published last month stated: “In 2019–20, only four states—already rich in RE generation—achieved or exceeded their RPO target: Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu. Only a stringent implementation of the RPO mandate would ensure a fairer distribution of the excess cost of absorbing RE.”

In 2019, DERC slapped a penalty of 2.88 crore each on BYPL and BRPL and 1.71 crore on TPDDL for defaulting on RPO. These were imposed for default in the years 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2015-15. But at that time (2012-2015), the BSES discoms requested deferment of RPOs because the cost of renewable energy was extremely high, some went as high as even 15 per unit.

This year, the power regulator notified fresh RPO targets under the DERC (Renewable Purchase Obligation and Renewable Energy Certificate Framework Implementation) Regulations, 2021. Under this, the RPO target for this year is 17.5% of which 7.25% has to be from solar power alone. By 2022-23, the RPO target for each discom in Delhi will be 21.35%.

|#+|

Delhi is yet to warm up to the solar policy

In 2016, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government notified the Delhi Solar Policy, 2016 with a target of establishing solar generation targets of 1GW (1,000 MW) by 2020 and 2.0 GW (2,000 MW) by 2025. It is 2021 and Delhi has, so far, managed to install solar power systems with a total capacity of only about 177 MW, officials said.

It also mandated the government to install rooftop solar panels in all its buildings, including schools, hospitals, and bridges within five years, but that too has not yet happened.

A report released by CSE in June stated that Delhi has managed to achieve only about 7% of its solar power capacity target — behind the national average of 39%.

“Our biggest success story under the solar policy has been government schools. We have set up rooftop solar projects in about 150 school buildings in collaboration with the central government scheme with a total capacity of about 21 MW. This is helping the schools save about 8.8 crore cumulatively on their electricity bills each year, apart from earning 8.5 crore by selling the extra electricity,” a senior power department official said.

Delhi’s West Vinod Nagar currently houses the largest solar rooftop plant (195 kW) on a government school in the country. Some of the other schools include those in Rohini (170 kW), Rouse Avenue (150 kW), East Vinod Nagar (146 kW) and Rajokari (127 kW).

Also Read | Delhi HC to hear Abhishek Banerjee’s plea challenging ED summons

When asked why the domestic segment has not picked up momentum in the last five years, the Delhi government said that most of the rooftops in the city get cancelled due to lack of space. “Some panels have been installed in Dwarka and parts of south Delhi like Greater Kailash, but for the rest, the main constraint is non-availability of enough no-shadow area on their rooftops. Also, during the pandemic, a number of parts were either not available or became extremely expensive because some of them are directly procured from China,” said a second official from the power department.

The way forward

Delhi, at present, is at an advantage as many of its old power purchase agreements (PPAs) made with coal-fired power plants are almost complete or have completed their shelf-life of 25 years. In July, the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) allowed both the BSES discoms to exit PPA with NTPC Dadri-I power plant.

After this exit, the two BSES distribution companies in Delhi are looking at giving up such expensive electricity purchased from at least six more power plants located outside the national Capital that have completed their shelf-life of 25 years, the Reliance Infrastructure-led BSES said on Sunday.

“We have tied-up around 2,300 MW of long-term renewable power from SECI comprising solar, non-solar, hybrid, and waste to energy. Coupled with hydro, over 50% of BSES’s long-term power arrangements (3,300 MW) will be renewable power by 2023-24, making it one of the greenest discoms in the country,” said a BSES spokesperson.

Many of these renewable PPAs were signed last year as well, but the projects had been stalled in states such as Rajasthan due to an uptick in Covid-19 cases.

“For the future, TPDDL is entering into long-term tie-ups only through renewable generators. It is also in the process of surrendering power from coal/gas-based stations which are 25 years old,” a TPDDL spokesperson said.

Enjoy unlimited digital access with HT Premium

Subscribe Now to continue reading
freemium
SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Topics
Close Story
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP
×
Saved Articles
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Thursday, October 21, 2021