Coal power plants in India are risky than solar: Greenpeace study

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New coal power plants in regions such as Uttar Pradesh, in close proximity to polluted Delhi-NCR are financially risky, unnecessary and pose a health risk to millions, said a Greenpeace India analysis.

The analysis focuses on the 1,320 MW Khurja thermal power project (STP) in Bulandshahr, Uttar Pradesh, proposed by THDC India, a joint venture by Government of India and Government of Uttar Pradesh.

The analysis shows that with the reduction in the cost of renewable energy — solar, wind or solar-wind hybrid projects will offer cheaper, cleaner electricity to the region. It will also be more financially secure for the project promoters and investors, as opposed to building a new coal-fired plant.

“It is disturbing that the Finance Ministry has given an in-principle agreement to finance the Khurja coal project, despite the dangerous air quality in the region, and the changing economics of renewable energy. New coal plants make no economic or ecological sense,” said Pujarini Sen, Senior Greenpeace Campaigner.

Using the land footprint of the Khurja super thermal power plant as an example, the analysis looks at what a solar plant of the size and scale of the Khurja STP would entail vis a vis parameters  such as investment required, job growth, return on equity, electricity generation and avoided pollution.

The 1,200 acres allotted to the power plant have a solar potential of 240 MW. In addition, the Khurja coal power project would require 3,378 acres of mostly forest land involving the felling of 9 lakh trees in Singrauli to be mined for coal.

A solar project with an equivalent land footprint (3378 acres for the mine) in a non-forest area would be able to host an additional 675 MW, taking the total capacity from a Khurja-sized project to 915 MW.

A solar plant of this size would create an estimated 8,341 jobs. The cost of such a plant is estimated to be around Rs 3,204 crore at Rs 3.5 crore per MW as compared to Rs 12,676 crore that will be invested in the thermal power plant.

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