India’s coal- and lignite-fired power plants are running at over 65 per cent of their capacity for the first time since 2014, according to reports.

The Plant Load Factor (PLF) for the first seven months of the current fiscal year has reportedly seen a rebound from its ten-year decline.

Government-, state- and privately-owned plants all figure in the rising trend, which is viewed by analysts as a predictor of rising power demand. Demand has been declining since the PLF hit a high of 78.5 per cent in 2008.

One reason for the rebound is said to be improvements to the transmission network, which has removed bottlenecks between the southern region and the rest of the country.

However, the news is not as good for India’s gas-fired plants, which are currently operating at a PLF of below 20 per cent due to fuel shortages.  

In October, 625 MW in coal-fired power capacity across the country were reported to be completely offline and 30 GW of capacity were threatened due to coal shortages. The western and northern regions were hardest hit, with as much as 40 per cent of coal-fired power capacity offline in Maharashtra and Rajasthan states. 

Data from the Central Electricity Authority, which posts power generation figures online, showed that a number of plants had just one day’s reserve coal stock available, while others had none.

And at the end of November, 25 GW of capacity was reported to be stranded and unused.

About 60 per cent of India’s electricity is currently fuelled by coal. The country is planning to build an extra 65 GW of coal-fired capacity in the next few years, equivalent to 20 large nuclear power plants.

And coal’s share in India’s energy mix has been predicted to stay between 42 and 50 per cent for the next 30 years, providing baseload power along with nuclear.

Gas-fired power’s share is predicted to rise to between 22 and 26 per cent by 2047 from its present share of around 4 per cent.

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