Falling Capacity Utilization of Thermal Power Plants in India: Projection of Future Scenarios

Falling Capacity Utilization of Thermal Power Plants in India: Projection of Future Scenarios

Alok K. Tripathi

NTPC Regional Learning Institute, Western Region II, Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, India

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The utilisation factor of coal-based thermal power plants in India is consistently falling. The average national capacity utilisation factor, commonly known as plant load factor (PLF), has dwindled from 78.6% in 2007–08 to 56.01% in 2019–20. Several highly efficient and modern power plants are des- tined to run at very low PLFs. On top of this, 59,810 MW of new and advanced technology thermal power plants are in pipeline. These plants are also likely to experience dismally low capacity utilisation. All this is happening even when unmet power demand exists in the country and coal-based thermal power is still the mainstay of power generation. Falling PLF of the plants is therefore a matter of con- cern for all the stakeholders. It is important to know what future has in store for these plants. Partial least square (PLS) regression has been used for projection of PLF for the next five years and five likely scenarios have been created. Projections show that in the business as usual case (factors increasing at the current CAGR rate; Scenario I), the thermal power plants will face very low level of PLF (14.76%) by 2024–25. This leads to a grim situation. However, it was found that in one of the scenarios, that is, fuel mix and demand as per Central Electricity Authority’s (CEA) suggestions with phasing out of old plants, Scenario V, the average PLF can be sustained above 68% until 2024–25. If this path is followed, thermal plants will get a fresh lease of life, at least in the medium term. It will also give time to poli- cymakers and utilities to prudently plan the optimum generation mix in the country including thermal and renewable energy.


capacity utilisation, future outlook, generation mix, India, PLF, thermal power plants


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