Interview with Mohit Bhargava

“There is immense potential for green hydrogen”

Mohit Bhargava, Executive Director, Renewable Energy, NTPC Limited

There is an ongoing global trend of large conventional energy players rapidly transitioning to greener energy sources and moving away from fossil fuels. In line with this, NTPC, the largest thermal power player in India, is making significant efforts to green its energy mix. To expand its existing footprint in renewable energy, the company incorporated a wholly owned subsidiary, NTPC Renewable Energy Limited, in 2020. Further, NTPC Limited aims to set up 60 GW of renewable power generation capacity by 2032. The company is also a key facilitator in the evolving green hydrogen space in India, with a vision to supply reliable and cost-effective green hydrogen and become an integrated energy major in the green hydrogen value chain across the transport, industry and power sectors.  In an interview with Renewable Watch, Mohit Bhargava, executive di­rec­tor, rene­wable energy, NTPC Limited, spoke about a range of issues, the company’s plans to add renewable capacity and his outlook for renewable energy in India. Excerpts…

­­What have been NTPC’s key achievements in the renewable energy space in the past one year?

Since April 2021, the NTPC Group has won 2.8 GW of renewable energy capacity in various auc­ti­ons, which is approximately 16 per cent of the capacity bid out by various implementing agencies. In October 2020, NTPC Renewable En­ergy Limited was set up as a wholly owned subsidiary of NTPC Limited, to spearhead rene­wable energy capacity addition for the group. Within 12 months of its inception this subsidiary has won around 3.5 GW in several tenders issued by the SECI and states. We started by winning bids at the lowest tariff achieved so far in the country. Then we succeeded in the solar-wind hybrid tender, which was a first for NTPC Group.

Incidentally, in August this year, NTPC commissioned India’s largest floating solar project of 25 MW at Simhadri. This is the first project to be co­mmissioned under the flexibilisation scheme. By December 2021, we shall be part-commissioning 40 MW of the 100 MW floating solar pro­je­ct at our Ramagundam station, Telangana. Then it shall break the record for India’s largest floating solar installation.

NTPC is in discussions with several states and a few central public sector undertakings for setting up renewable energy parks to leverage the Ultra Mega Renewable Energy Power Parks Sc­he­me launched by the Government of India. NTPC Re­newable Energy Limited has been allocated land for the largest renewable energy park of 4.75 GW at Kutch, Gujarat. NTPC has also sign­ed an MoU with the Da­modar Valley Cor­po­ration for setting up floating solar projects in waterbodies owned by them.

“NTPC is all geared up to contribute towards the decarbonisation goals set by the government.”

What is NTPC’s current renewable energy portfolio? How has the development of renewable projects been affected by Covid-19? Are there any new tenders expected from NTPC?

Currently, the NTPC Group has around 1.5 GW of operational renewable energy capacity and around 3 GW of projects are under implementation. Apart from these, we shall soon award 2.6 GW of projects that we have already won in various auctions. Our project development activities were affected during the lockdowns on account of Covid-19. However, suitable time ex­ten­sions were accorded by the Government of India and almost all of our projects shall come up as per the revised timelines.

What do you think is the potential and scope for green hydrogen in India? What are NTPC’s plans in the green hydrogen space?

There is immense potential for green hydrogen in India. India already uses 6.7 million tonnes (mt) of hydrogen, mainly for the petrochemical and fertiliser industries. The demand for these sec­tors is expected to be double by 2030. With a target of 500 GW of non-fossil en­ergy announced by India in the COP26 forum, there are enough reasons for gr­e­en hydrogen to be forming the ma­jor part of this demand. A recent study by the In­dian government’s think tank, NITI Aayog, expects electrolyser capacity to re­ach 60 GW for domestic use and over 100 GW for export of ammonia by 2030. A production of 5 mt of green hydrogen is also expected by 2030.

NTPC plans to become a pioneer in the adoption of new use cases for green hy­drogen. NTPC has initiated pilot projects for various applications such as mobility, green chemicals (ammonia and metha­n­ol), fuel cell-based microgrids, hydrogen-based backup systems, and hydrogen blending natural gas networks. NTPC has a vision to “supply reliable and cost-effective green hydrogen and be an integrated energy major in the green hydrogen value chain across the transport, industry and power sectors”. NTPC will strive to beco­me a leader in green hydrogen and green chemicals as well.

What has been your experience with emerging technologies such as energy storage, floating solar and wind-solar hybrids?

NTPC intends to set up a pilot project for a 40 MWh battery energy storage system (BESS), taking power from the adjacent 100 MW floating solar project at Rama­gu­n­dam, Telengana. NTPC is also exploring the setting up of 1,200 MWh of commercial-scale BESSs.

In the hydrogen energy storage space, we are going ahead with a pilot at Simhadri, Andhra Pradesh. We shall produce 50 kW of round-the-clock power from solar and hydrogen to meet the demand in the day time and night-time respectively. Long ago, we had established a 3.4 MW solar-wind hybrid project at our Kudgi station in Kar­nataka to measure the performance across seasons.

In floating solar, we have done reasonably well. Starting with an experimental set-up of 100 kW in Kerala in 2017, we now have a 1 MW system at the Kawas station and In­dia’s largest operational floating solar project at our Simhadri station. Very soon, we shall ex­ceed this target and set up a 100 MW floating solar system at the Rama­gundam station.

What do you think of the current and future tariff trends for wind and solar?

Tariff trends would depend on a host of factors such as policy interventions and eq­ui­p­ment pricing. For example, there has been a huge increase in module pri­ces and the basic customs duty will be ap­p­li­cable on imported solar cells and modules from April 1, 2022. Given the current scenario, we feel that tariffs will not de­crease considerably in the near future.

“To achieve the envisaged 500 GW of non-fossil fuelbased capacity by 2030, we would need an addition
of 30-40 GW of renewable energy capacity annually.”

What are some of the key challenges facing the renewable energy sector at present?

The sector has been severely impacted by an increase in global module prices, whi­ch has exacerbated the challenges posed by Covid-19. The hardening of pri­ces of other raw materials such as steel and glass has also added to the woes of developers. Further, more clarity is awaited on issues such as the Great Indian Bus­­tard, and the goods and services tax.

What is your outlook for the renewable energy sector in the future?

There is tremendous support from the go­vernment, which has taken certain vi­sio­nary measures to promote the sector. Mea­sures such as the introduction of the production-linked incentive scheme for module manufacturing and the extension of interstate transmission system waiver to renewable energy projects until June 2025 clearly indicates that the government is serious about creating a good, self-reliant ecosystem in the renewable energy sector. Further, to achieve the envisaged non-fossil fuel-based capacity of 500 GW by 2030, we would need an addition of 30-40 GW of renewable energy capacity annually. The government’s push towards green hydrogen through the National Hydrogen Mis­sion will help complement this ambitious target while also addressing the issues of renewable energy integration in the grid. Hence, despite all the challenges, the outlook is quite bright, and we at NTPC are all gear­ed up to contribute towards the de­carbo­nisation goals set by the Govern­ment of India.

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