India’s future energy needs are likely to grow more than any other country in the period to 2040. Energy consumption is predicted to more than double by 2040, with a consequent growth in the use of coal and oil.
India’s coal fleet is relatively young, predominantly subcritical but with a large tranche of future capacity planned or under construction. However, the planned future capacity is largely supercritical, rather than the current state-of-the-art ultra-supercritical technology that has been extensively proven in other countries. Indian projections and current policy seem to indicate that this trend will continue in the near future. This appears to be a missed opportunity for India to have the most efficient and modern plant to drive her economic growth; lower efficiency plant built in preference to the best high efficiency low emission (HELE) alternatives now would be “locked in” to the generating sector for the lifetime of that plant, possibly forty years.
The choice of subcritical, and now supercritical plant, over more advanced options is attributed to a cautious and conservative approach, gathering “home grown” experience on plant performance and maintenance in the light of challenges posed by India’s high ash coal resource. While this was undoubtedly a reasonable approach where power generation technologies were developed and built using regional skills and facilities, in the modern globalised power market a huge body of experience exists in dealing with all types of coal and manufacturers are prepared to design and offer high performance plant to burn even the most difficult coals, with full commercial guarantees. Fortunately, recent developments show that the Indian market is becoming more receptive to ultra-supercritical as the technology of first choice, but there is still much to be done to avoid the Indian coal fleet becoming locked into mainly supercritical plant.