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The article provides an insight into the power industry in India, the various sources for power generation and the role of private sector in power sector.

Power Sector In India

India has a deficit in power generation and the public sector has not been able to meet the increasing demand. The dynamic growth witnessed by the economy has not been matched by the power sector in India. In fact experts believe the deficit in power supply has been the biggest infrastructure constraint. The power generation is dominated by the government through the public sector units and distribution is almost entirely controlled by the government.

The government came up with the Accelerated Power Sector Development and Reform Programme in 2001 to restructure the power sector. The electricity act 2003 was passed to make the state governments introduce reform to bring in competition and efficiency in the sector. The Post reforms various state governments have chalked out strategies to overcome the power crisis. In spite of all these measures the power scenario has not witnessed any dramatic change. Investment into the sector has not been up to the expectation.

Electricity Generation
Coal is the most important resource for power generation in India, taking care of half of the primary energy needs and a third of total energy needs. Coal reserves in India are substantial high but low in quality. Because of economic and security reasons, coal would play a vital role as a raw material for power generation. Most of the coal based power plants use conventional sub critical pulverized coal technologies and below par in converting coal to electricity. The reasons for the bad performance of the coal based power plants are due to:
  • Challenges in the coal supply industry.
  • Not having clear-cut performance standards.
  • Negligible incentive for continual performance improvement due to negligible competition.
  • Insufficient investments in R&D.
  • Substandard operational and management practices.
  • Not having sufficient facts and accountability.
Controls to check the negative impact on the eco system due to the usage of coal is not sufficient. The trend of relying on imported gas over the past decade raises concern with respect to security and continuity of supply. There is not much initiative to upgrade current technology and to come up with new technology for generating power based on coal.

Hydroelectric Power
Hydroelectric power generation in India started much before Independence in 1897 at Darjeeling. In 1902 another power station was set up at Sivasamudram in Karnataka. Over 25 per cent of electricity produced by India today is from hydropower. Some of the major states generating hydroelectricity are Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Jammu & Kashmir, Meghalaya, Tripura and Sikkim.

Solar Power In India
India has a very high density of population and has high solar isolation, making it an ideal scenario for solar power in India. The first applications for solar power has been for water pumping to replace India's four to five million diesel powered water pumps. New projects are on the pipeline and an area of 35,000 square km has been set aside in the Thar for solar power projects.

According to reports the government has initiated a massive project to popularize solar energy systems. It is estimated these projects will generate 200,000 megawatts by 2050.The government has taken steps to install small scale photovoltaic panels, commercial scale solar plants and solar lightning systems to give impetus to the domestic manufacturers.

Nuclear Power
The increasing awareness to generate power without polluting the environment and at the same time meet the increasing demand for power due to the rapid growth in the economy has resulted in the government shifting focus towards nuclear power. The Department of Atomic Energy has proposed to use locally available uranium resources in Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs),followed by the recycling of spent fuel in Fast Breeder Reactors for generating nuclear power. Again recycling of plutonium derived from the reprocessing of spent fuel gives us a very large energy resource. While the government has taken steps to increase the installed nuclear generation capacity, the setting up of a Light Water Reactor based on imported technology at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu is a step in the right direction. At BARC technology to tap the vast thorium reserves in the country is being developed.

The recent Indo US 123 agreement is an effort by the government to make India self reliant in nuclear technology and overcome the power crisis facing the country. Some of the salient features are:
  • USA will not interfere with India's nuclear programme for military purpose.
  • USA will help India to negotiate with IAEA for an India specific fuel supply agreement.
  • US will help India to have strategic reserves of nuclear fuel as a contingency measure against future disruption of supply.
  • Both the countries agreed that nuclear trade between the two nations should be mutually beneficial.
Role Of Private Sector
The government has set in reforms to allow the entry of private sector in power generation. But the process has been hampered by the fact that the ultimate purchase of power is the state governments. At present the private sector accounts for about 15% of the total capacity, mostly in the renewable energy sector.

Reliance energy Ltd is one of the leading groups in the private sector for power generation. It is into generation, transmission, distribution and trading of power. It distributes over 5000 MW of power the largest in the country.

Essar power ltd installed India's first new generation state of the art power project at Hazira in 1990's .The 515 MW natural gas fired combined cycle has regularly set new standards of excellence in the power sector and confirms to the highest operating benchmark. It has the unique feature of being able to operate on both naphtha and gas simultaneously.

GMR power corporation pvt ltd commissioned a 200 MW power plant in Chennai in 1998.The power generated is supplied to the TamilNadu Electricity Board. The unique feature of the plant being the sophisticated sewage treatment unit, which treats sewerage water to convert it to clean water for its own use.

Tata Power Ltd is India's largest private sector power utility, serving the nation over nine decades. It has generation capacity in Mumbai, Delhi, Jojobera, Jharkhand and Karnataka. It has made its presence felt in all aspects of power whether it is thermal, hydro, solar, wind and transmission and distribution.

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