Enthused by India’s electric vehicle (EV) market potential, state-owned energy company NTPC Ltd is exploring a new business around it.
To start with, India’s largest power generation utility is looking at setting up charging stations to help create the demand for electricity generated by its plants and keep pace with the fast-changing power sector.
This comes in the backdrop of ambitious government plans for a mass scale shift to electric vehicles by 2030 so that every vehicle on Indian roads by then—both personal and commercial—are those that are powered by electricity. India’s current installed capacity of 314,642 MW and projects under construction are expected to meet the country’s electricity demand till 2026. This is the trigger for the NTPC to scout for new growth areas. NTPC’s thermal stations are registering a low plant load factor (PLF)—a measure of average capacity utilization—due to muted demand. According to NTPC, its thermal stations clocked a PLF of 77.72% for the nine months of FY 2016-17 as compared to a national PLF of 59.64%.
“The interests of a lot of companies in the public sector is aligned with the possibilities offered by India’s electric vehicle market. A case in point being NTPC Ltd, which has surplus power and is now looking at this market to set up charging stations. This offers a very strong complementary area for NTPC,” said a government official requesting anonymity.
Any shift to EVs will help reduce pollutants and fuel imports.
An NTPC spokesperson in an emailed response confirmed its interest in the emerging electric vehicle sector, saying, “Electric vehicle charging infrastructure is set to be explored as an emerging requirement.” The state-owned utility is working on a plan to bring down the cost of setting up these charging stations by half to around Rs1 lakh each.
In addition, NTPC wants to contribute significantly to India’s plans to set up 100 GW of solar power capacity by 2022. The utility wants to supply electricity from 10,000MW of solar power capacity that it is setting up on its own and buy 15,000MW on behalf of the ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE).
“India has the electricity capacity available to be deployed for the EVs. The EV programme will also help in grid balancing and it complements the government’s push for solar power which is generated during the day and can be stored in EV batteries,” said the government official quoted above.
The government wants to see 6 million electric and hybrid vehicles on the roads by 2020 under the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) 2020 and Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles (FAME). Currently, electric vehicle sales are low in India, rising 37.5% to 22,000 units in the year ended 31 March 2016 from 16,000 in 2014-15; only 2,000 of these were cars and other four-wheelers, according to EV lobby group Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles. Experts say more such efforts are needed for the Indian EV market to develop.
“A helping hand is required to create the infrastructure. It can’t be done by one stakeholder. More stakeholders need to come in, it will be helpful. There are two concerns for electric vehicles—first is cost and second is infrastructure,” said Abdul Majeed, partner and national auto practice leader, PricewaterhouseCoopers.
There has been interest by other public sector firms—Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd is seeking to leverage the EV opportunity and reposition itself as a transportation solutions provider. India’s largest power generation equipment maker wants to manufacture electric vehicles such as buses, cars, two-wheelers and boats as reported by Mint.
“There can also be battery swapping stations. The idea is to make available mass availability of charging stations at places such as parking spots. It’s a commercial decision for the public sector units,” the official added. Queries emailed to an MNRE spokesperson on 6 March remained unanswered.
NTPC has an installed capacity of 48,188 MW and 23,000 MW under implementation at 23 locations across the country.