The Central government is reviving the gas-fired thermal power plants to supplement renewable energy generation in the country. It has introduced a gas pooling mechanism, which has already increased the generation from 10% to 50%.Addressing a press conference here, Union energy minister Piyush Goyal said that the biggest disadvantage with renewable energy plants was that sources like solar power was not available at night. “Moreover, it is not possible to increase generation to meet the peak load. This is where the gas-fired plants come into play,” he said.
Most of the gas-fired power plants are lying idle or are generating at very low capacity due to shortage of domestic natural gas and high cost of imported gas. Reduction in gas prices abroad and pooling it with domestic gas has brought down the effective price. The aim of the government is to run the gas plants at full load.Goyal said that the government would formulate policies to promote renewable energy. “The interstate transmission of clean energy will be free. Two green energy corridors are being built for this purpose. We will introduce competitive bidding, which will reduce the power purchase cost,” he said, adding that government’s aim was to stop import of non-coking coal (needed for thermal power plants). At present, the import is worth around 1 lakh crore.
The minister further said that the government aimed to wipe out the losses of state-run power distribution companies by 2019. Presently, these losses are in the range of 70,000 crore. “Reserve Bank of India (RBI), banks, central and state governments have devised a formula to achieve this. Centre will not provide any cash subsidy to the discoms. The state governments will have to help them. We will try to help them in other ways,” he said. “The state government will also have to repay the bank loans owed by the discoms but over a long period,” he added.The government also wants to bring down the aggregate technical and commercial (AT & C) losses to 15% from the current 27%. AT & C losses are a combination of technical losses, theft and poor collection efficiency. The UPA government had also set this target but was unable to achieve it because of reluctance of state governments to crack down on power theft.