04 Jul 2024

Exclusive: India Asks Utilities to Order $33 Billion in Equipment This Year to Boost Coal Power Output

04 Jul 2024  by reuters   

A farmer sprinkles pesticide on the field as smoke rises from the chimneys of a coal power plant as the demand for coal-based power plants has risen due to the prolonged heatwave spells, in Dadri, India, June 20, 2024. REUTERS/ Priyanshu Singh/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
India has asked power companies to order equipment worth $33 billion this year to fast track capacity additions of coal-fired power in the years ahead, as the South Asian nation struggles to meet booming electricity demand, two government officials said.

The unprecedented move by the government, which would result in record tendering in a year for the equipment by major power firms such as state-run NTPC (NTPC.NS), opens new tab and SJVN (SJVN.NS), opens new tab as well as by private companies Adani Power (ADAN.NS), opens new tab and Essar Power, will help add 31 gigawatts (GW) in the next 5-6 years, the sources said.

Normally, the government leaves the tendering timing to the companies themselves.

Expediting equipment orders for new coal-fired plants was discussed at a meeting held by Power Minister Manohar Lal, soon after the formation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's federal cabinet early last month, the sources said.

The targets are ambitious given the country has ordered equipment for about 2-3 GW capacity annually in prior years, barring last year's orders for 10 GW.

India is rushing to add fresh coal-fired plants as it is barely able to meet high power demand with the existing fleet in non-solar hours.

Post pandemic, the country's power demand scaled new records on the back of the fastest rate of economic growth among major economies and increased instances of heatwaves.

India saw its biggest power shortfall in 14 years in June, and had to race to avoid night time outages by deferring planned plant maintenance, and invoking an emergency clause to mandate companies to run plants based on imported coal and power.

State-run Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL) (BHEL.NS), opens new tab, which bagged all power equipment contracts in auctions in the last year, is likely to get most of the contracts for the new equipment, the sources said.

Larsen & Toubro (LART.NS), opens new tab, the only other power equipment producer in the market, had not participated in most of last year's bids, they said.

The Power Ministry, BHEL, Adani, NTPC, SJVN and L&T did not immediately respond to emails sent by Reuters. The sources did not want to be named because they were not authorised to talk to media.

"The last large orders for power equipment were placed for about 20 GW around 2009-10 when Chinese companies bagged a major pie," one of the sources said.

Policy flip-flops and lack of orders for coal-based plants over the past several years forced other equipment suppliers such as Thermax–Babcock, BGR–Hitachi and South Korea's Doosan to shut their manufacturing units in India.

The country, since 2020, discourages contracts with companies in countries sharing a land border such as China by mandating regulatory approvals.

Since late last year, India has fast tracked coal-fired power plants to meet its power needs, threatening to undermine progress made by the world's No.3 greenhouse gas emitter in weaning its economy off carbon.

In March Reuters reported private Indian firms have expressed interest in building at least 10 GW of coal-fired power capacity over a decade, ending a six-year drought in significant private involvement in the sector.($1 = 83.5040 Indian rupees)


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