NTPC Limited is making rapid strides in the renewables space to meet its green energy commitment. As of March 2018, NTPC’s total installed generation capacity stood at 53.6 GW, of which 870 MW was solar and 50 MW was wind. Apart from setting up its own fleet of solar and wind power projects, NTPC has commissioned over 3,483 MW of capacity in developer mode under the National Solar Mission. In addition, it has set up an 8 MW small-hydro power project at the NTPC Singrauli campus, Uttar Pradesh.
Growth Plan 2032
NTPC has announced an ambitious growth plan till the year 2032. It plans to set up about 130 GW of generation capacity, of which 32 GW will come from renewables. Of the 53.6 GW of total installed capacity, only 0.92 GW is from renewable energy sources. Thus, in a span of 14 years, the company aims to increase the share of renewables from 1.7 per cent to 24.7 per cent.
According to the company’s roadmap, 10 GW of solar capacity will be added by 2022 and it will be increased to 30 GW by 2032. However, coal will continue to be the main source of energy generation, with a 65.4 per cent share by 2032.
NTPC’s growth plan also includes achieving a market share of 25 per cent in ancillary services and energy storage and 10 per cent in the e-mobility business in India.
Solar project pipeline
Currently, around 2.75 GW of solar capacity is being tendered in developer mode. Of this, 750 MW will be set up in Anantapuramu and 2,000 MW in solar parks across the country. In the EPC mode, solar projects worth 127 MW are being tendered in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands (25 MW with energy storage systems), Kawas (65 MW), Auraiya (22 MW) and Kayamkulam (15 MW). In addition, the company is developing about 376 MW of solar capacity at its existing stations.
NTPC has been one of the few companies in India promoting floating solar power plants. It has commissioned the country’s largest floating solar plant of 100 kW at the Rajiv Gandhi Combined Cycle Power Plant in Kayamkulam, Kerala, and has also launched an EPC tender to develop a 22 MW project at the same location. The Maharatna category company will finance this project through its internal resources. A 1 MW floating solar project at Kawas is also in the planning stage. Although the company has not been very active in the wind segment, it tendered 2 GW of wind power projects in March 2018 to benefit from the interstate transmission system (ISTS) charge waiver.
The NTPC solar auctions have witnessed some of the lowest tariffs in the country. The average tariff reduced to Rs 2.72 in the recently concluded Anantapuramu, Andhra Pradesh, auction from Rs 3.15 per kWh seen at the Kadapa solar plant auction in April 2017.
While the company has been making concerted efforts to develop a solar portfolio, it has faced some issues with solar projects tendered at the end of 2017. In January 2018, the company decided to cancel the 250 MW solar tender with domestic content requirement that was launched in October 2017, to comply with the World Trade Organization’s ruling that prevented India from tendering projects only for domestically manufactured panels. In addition, due to the confusion regarding the levy of safeguard duties on solar power equipment, developers could not bid at low tariffs. Thus, NTPC like many other central and state agencies had to extend the bid submission deadlines. The problem is expected to be resolved with the recent rulings of the Madras and Delhi High Courts as well as the changes in the competitive bidding guidelines made by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.
Besides, NTPC has been repeatedly running into problems with its 750 MW Pavagada Solar Park tender. The project was retendered in March 2017 after a one-year delay due to an insufficient transmission network. Since the reissue of the tender, anti-dumping investigations and GST uncertainties have caused further delays. In January 2018, it was reported that the company was planning to cancel the auction due to the ongoing issues between NTPC and Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Limited.
NTPC has taken many initiatives to promote the upcoming energy technologies. One such key initiative has been the development of charging infrastructure for electric vehicles (EVs). The company is looking to acquire a pan-Indian licence to set up EV charging stations. It has issued a tender for the development of EV charging infrastructure in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, and recently commissioned a charging station at the Talcher Super Thermal Power Station in Odisha. It has also installed a “Solar Tree” at the NTPC Power Management Institute, Noida, with tracking features, for EV charging.
The company has also set up a research wing called the NTPC Energy Technology Research Alliance (NETRA), which is working on a variety of energy technologies to improve generation and transmission. Since NTPC is going big in the floating solar segment, one of the important NETRA projects has been aimed at reducing the cost of floaters used in such plants by 60 per cent to reach Rs 16 million per MW. NTPC is also diversifying into the rooftop solar segment. The company is setting up a 1.5 MW rooftop solar power system at Kudgi and has signed an MoU with ISRO to forecast solar insolation in the country.
NTPC has taken measures to bring down the tariffs in its upcoming solar tenders. To this end, it has reduced the operations and maintenance contract period to three years from 10 years. Further, to utilise its existing transmission line capacities, NTPC is offering ISTS-based grid connectivity for solar projects through its generating switchyards.
The company is reportedly planning to raise Rs 160 billion for the expansion of its power generation capacity. The company seems to be on the right track to achieve the targeted capacity in the coming years. Since January 2018, it has already tendered almost 935 MW of solar and 2 GW of wind power capacity. In addition to setting up new capacities, NTPC’s future plan includes the procurement of renewable energy through open access. This will help the company reduce the variable charges associated with thermal power, thus lowering the energy costs incurred by it.
Following the success of its diversification strategy in India, NTPC is now planning to expand its operations and enter the international markets. Currently, the company is looking at the East African and Southeast Asian countries. In the Middle East, NTPC is targeting Oman and Egypt as the key markets.
To conclude, NTPC has adapted well to the changing energy sector and is working to reduce its operational costs. NTPC’s initiatives, such as Growth Plan 2032, can serve as a model for thermal power generators across the world, encouraging them to generate clean energy while still owning and operating coal-and gas-based power plants, and contributing towards emission reduction.