CUDDALORE: As a result of surplus power due to the significant increase in power generation from renewable sources, thermal power stations, private and public, are facing the heat. The trend is piling up more pressure on the thermal energy and mines in terms of business and jobs.
On June 12 midnight, a large pile of lignite at the mine-IA of NLC India Limited caught fire, which entailed huge loss to the company. Explaining the reason for piling up of huge quantity of lignite for more days than usual, the NLCIL said that mining operation at the mine-IA was depending on the offtake of lignite by the 250-MW power plant of TAQA, an independent power plant functioning near Neyveli.
“The TAQA power station is not operating to its full capacity and hence it is not taking the lignite from the mine-IA. Even after reducing the sale price of lignite, there is no off-take,” the NLCIL had at that time.
Exactly a month later, the NLCIL’s management had informed a section of contract workers in the mine-IA that their number of shifts in a month was reduced from 26 to 19. As it would take a toll on their income, the contract workers with the support of political parties took to the streets and staged a series of protests.
As the matter became a law-and-order issue, the Cuddalore district administration had to mediate between trade unions and NLCIL management and conducted talks. The intervention of the district administration brought the workers’ three-week-long strike to an end with the management agreeing to give 26 shifts per month.
Citing reasons for the shift cut, the NLCIL management said that on account of stoppage of production of lignite in the mine-IA, the contract workers could not carry out their work quantity and accordingly could not engage them fully in a month. In a nutshell, this entire hullabaloo was caused by the increase in the renewable energy that led to a power-surplus situation.
According to TANGEDCO sources, around 35 per cent of power supplied to the State is generated from renewable energy sources, recording an installed capacity of 10,116 MW as in June, a 25 per cent increase from 8,075 MW in 2014.
“Solar power tariff, for instance, has now come down by around 40 per cent, paving the way for cheaper solar power,” said an official. According to data available with TANGEDCO, of the 10,116 MW installed capacity as on June-end, 7,662 MW was from wind power source and 1,599 MW from solar power source. As for the generation during the month, 1,474 MU was from wind power source, whereas 227 MU was from solar power source, of the total 1,712 MU generated.
The shift towards renewable energy is in line with a nationwide trend, as is evident from a Greenpeace report earlier this month, which indicated that the coal use in India grew by an average of merely 2.2 per cent over the last two financial years, before which the country had witnessed growth rates of up to 12 per cent, with an exception of 2011.
On the other hand, renewable energy is booming, with India installing more wind, solar and other renewables (~12 GW) than coal (~8 GW) between April 2016 - March 2017, the report said. An expert said, “The Union government is giving importance to the renewable energy sector. Moreover, as the renewable energy sources are pollution- free, it is being given preference.
Manpower requirement for renewable energy projects is also lesser when compared to the conventional power projects. The Central government has also set the target of achieving one lakh MW solar energy in 2022. So if there is any disturbance to the conventional power projects, it would affect existing jobs.”