Use of biomass pellets to generate power picks up in NCR
The use of biomass pellets along with coal to generate electricity has picked up pace around the national capital region (NCR), where 50% of thermal power plants have already launched the co-firing process, power ministry data showed. But nationally, only about 40 out of over 180 coal-fired plants of 25 megawatt (MW) and above have started using biomass pellets for power generation.
This comes after the power ministry on October 8 last year notified a policy mandating all coal-fired power plants to use biomass pellets as at least 5% of fuel mix (with coal) to generate electricity. The policy was first notified in November 2017, but in October last year, the “revised policy for biomass utilisation for power generation through co-firing in coal-based power plants” was issued, making it mandatory for all coal-fired plants to use such pellets and increase the percentage of biomass to 7% from November this year.
The policy, broadly named SAMARTH (Sustainable Agrarian Mission on use of Agro Residue in Thermal Power Plants), intends to encourage farmers to convert crop stubble into pellets rather than burning it. The plan is likely to find a mention in the upcoming Union Budget on February 1 as the government is planning to launch a website and logo for SAMARTH.
Stubble burning is rampant in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and becomes a major contributor of air pollution in Delhi-NCR in the months of October and November every year.
More than three months after the revised policy was notified, data from the power ministry, seen by HT, showed that until December 31, at least six of the 12 coal-fired power plants located in a radius of 300 km of NCR have started mixing biomass pellets with coal for power generation. These six plants together used about 20,303 metric tonnes (MT) of biomass until December 31.
A plant-wise breakup showed that NTPC Dadri in Uttar Pradesh has used maximum biomass pellets (19,504 MT), followed by NTPC plant in Mauda, Maharashtra (18,223 MT). “It has been observed that NTPC has emerged as a leader in biomass usage, having co-fired nearly 58,000 MT of biomass, while tendering a total of 10.7 MMT (million metric tonnes) over short-term and long-term basis,” the power ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.
Overall, nearly 59,000 MT of biomass has been co-fired in thermal power plants across the country till date. A ministry spokesperson said that tenders for 12 MMT are at different stages for short-term and long-term duration. “Out of this, the biomass co-fired in the NCR region stands nearly at 21,000 MT and tenders floated in the region are about 5.50 MMT. Contracts have already been awarded for more than 1.1 million MT of biomass pellets,” the spokesperson added.
Among the states, the Haryana state generation company has been able to co-fire around 550 MT of biomass in two stations and float tenders worth 1.1 MMT. However, officials acknowledged that the mandate is yet to pick up in most coal-based power plants across the country.
“Some of the public and private generating companies have also started co-firing small quantities of biomass in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. The results so far are encouraging and there is still a long way to go before the country can achieve its target of 5-10% co-firing in all plants. This will be achieved with active participation of all central/state Gencos and Independent Power Producers (IPPs),” read the ministry’s statement.
Government estimates suggest that the SAMARTH programme could help farmers earn approximately ₹15,000 crore annually. At present, 51.7% of India’s power generation comes from coal-based thermal power plants that use around 700 million tonnes of coal every year. A 5% blend of biomass pellets will result in around 35 million tonnes less of coal being burnt.
At the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow in November, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to cut India’s carbon emission by 1 billion tonnes by 2030. The commitment also includes meeting 50% of India’s energy requirements from renewable energy by 2030 and increasing non-fossil fuel power generation capacity to 500GW (gigawatt) by the end of this decade.