Supply constraints dented coal-biomass mixing, says Union Power Minister

The Power Ministry in October 2021 had decreed that all thermal power plants ensure that they replace 5% of their coal with biomass by October 2022

October 06, 2022 09:22 pm | Updated October 07, 2022 12:10 am IST - NEW DELHI

R.K. Singh, Minister of Power and New & Renewable Energy. File

R.K. Singh, Minister of Power and New & Renewable Energy. File | Photo Credit: Kamal Narang

India’s thermal power plant operators were unable to comply with norms that required them to mix coal with a certain proportion of biomass because of inadequate supply chains, said Union Power Minister R.K. Singh on Thursday.

The proceedings of an inter-ministerial meeting of the Environment, Agriculture and Power Ministries on October 3 2022 (Monday) expressed concern over several power plant operators not meeting the target of replacing 5% of their coal with biomass. Biomass pellets have the same calorific value as coal and mixing them with coal saves consumption as well as reportedly cuts emissions.

The Power Ministry in October 2021 had decreed that all thermal power plants ensure 5% compliance by October 2022.

“Supply chains have to be built up. You cannot co-fire biomass by itself and you have to torrefy it, facilities for which are coming up,” said Mr. Singh at a press conference to announce a meeting of the International Solar Alliance, scheduled here, later this month.

Torrefaction refers to heating biomass, such as wood or grain, to between 200-320 celsius, thereby making it amenable to being used as a fuel that can be burnt for energy like coal. The end product is called ‘bio-coal.’

As The Hindu had reported, in 2020-21, only eight power plants had co-fired biomass pellets, and this number had risen to 39 as of Monday. To put that number in perspective, India has around 180 thermal power plants. In the Delhi-NCR region, a hotbed of air pollution, 10 thermal power plants had started co-firing with biomass and coal. As of Monday, 83,066 tonnes of biomass have been co-fired in 39 thermal power plants across the country and has generated close to 55,390 MW of power.

India currently holds the Presidentship of the International Solar Alliance Assembly. Ministers, missions and delegates from 109 Member and Signatory Countries are set to participate in this meeting. The Fifth Assembly of the ISA will deliberate on the key initiatives of ISA on energy access, energy security, and energy transition, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy said in a statement.

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