In what will help India meet its electricity demands in a clean and efficient manner, state-run Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (Bhel) will be given Rs.2,454 crore for developing the advanced ultra-super critical (AUSC) technology.
The decision was taken by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on 10-08-2016. The grant involves a financial support of Rs.1,554 crore and a one-time budgetary support of Rs.900 crore.
The project is at the heart of India's effort to help meet its clean energy commitments and meet the electricity demands of the world's fastest-growing large economy. Once commissioned, it will be more environment-friendly compared with traditional thermal power plants which use comparatively higher amount of coal.
"A consortium of three government entities, namely Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (Bhel), Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) and National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) Ltd have proposed a R&D project for development of AUSC Technology for thermal power plants of future, envisaging reduced coal consumption as well as carbon di-oxide (CO2) emission," the government said in a statement.
The development assumes significance given that coal is the largest fuel source in India's energy mix. Of the country's installed electricity generation capacity of 303,833 megawatt (MW), 61% or 186,243MW is fuelled by coal. This also comes at a time when multilateral financial institutions are unwilling to finance coal-fuelled projects.
"Power generation from coal contributes to about 38% of CO2 pollution in the atmosphere; 20% reduction in CO2 emission at source combined, with 20% saving in coal consumption compared to a sub-critical plant, and by about 11% compared to a supercritical plant, are the primary reasons justifying this project," the statement added.
The existing supercritical power plants with a capacity of 660MW and above work at high temperature and pressure which leads to improved efficiency, reduced fuel usage and lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Experts believe that the funding will help the government meet the 2017 deadline to develop AUSC technology for thermal power plant.
"Bhel would in the meantime have a prototype of it and it would then run on a pilot basis. By having this, we would not be relying on imports and have optimum use of higher efficiency coal-fired power plants," said former power secretary P. Uma Shankar.
Given its role in an economy's development, the Narendra Modi-led government has pledged to provide electricity to all Indians by 2022. India wants to improve its per capita electricity consumption of 1,010 kilowatt hour and double it in the next seven years. Currently, there are around 50 million households in the country without access to electricity.
In a separate decision, the Union Cabinet approved the amendments to sections 64, 65, and 115 of the Factories Act, 1948. The government introduced the Factories (Amendment) bill, 2016 in Parliament, whereby these amendments relate to increase in overtime hours.
The Cabinet also gave approval to amend regulation for foreign investment in the non- banking finance companies (NBFCs).
"The amendment in the existing foreign exchange management concerning transfer or issue of security by the person residing outside India regulations on NBFCs will enable inflow of foreign investment in 'other financial services' through automatic route provided such services are regulated by any financial sector regulators—Reserve Bank of India, Securities and Exchange Board of India and Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority," the government said in a statement.