‘Water guzzler’: Coal power in India cost cos Rs 2,400 cr in five months


Terming the coal power sector a “water guzzler”, Greenpeace India on Thursday claimed that water scarcity in various parts of the country caused it an estimated revenue loss of over Rs 2,000 crore in the first five months this year.

“The water scarcity crippling large parts of India has already cost coal power companies nearly 7 billion units in lost electricity generation, with an estimated revenue loss of Rs 2,400 crore in the first five months of 2016 alone,” the NGO said.

Greenpeace India had on Friday said that the amount of fresh water being consumed by the country’s coal-fired power plants can meet the basic water needs of about 25 crore people and had also accused the government of having “myopic” view on managing India’s water resource.

“The coal power sector is already a water guzzler, consuming 4.6 billion cubic metres a year — water that could have met the most basic needs of 251 million Indians. Shocking as these figures are, they will more than double if all proposed coal plants are built.

“We already know that the expansion of coal power will increase air pollution and deforestation; this data shows us that it will also worsen the water crisis, posing a serious financial risk to lenders and investors in these projects,” said Ravi Chellam, Executive Director of Greenpeace India in Mumbai.

The analysis is based on daily outage reports from the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) and RTI replies from National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC).

It said that water shortages have led to coal power plants shutting down in West Bengal, Karnataka and Maharashtra while NTPC, Adani Power, GMR, Mahagenco and Karnataka Power Corporation are among the companies affected.

Most of the losses have occurred between March and May, when plants have been unable to run due to a lack of water for cooling, the NGO said.

“For financiers looking to invest in the building of these coal power plants, particularly in those areas that habitually experience water stress, the water crisis should set alarm bells ringing.

“In this era of worsening climate change, coal power is an expensive habit that we simply cannot afford — not just because of the high environmental and social costs associated with it, but also because of the massive financial risks posed by these plants’ dependence on vast quantities of ever-more precious water supplies,” Ravi added.

Greenpeace India said that repeated shutdowns at NTPC’s.

Farakka plant between February and April resulted in loss of over 1 billion units of electricity, translating into revenue loss of Rs 390 crore.

Shutdowns at Adani’s Tiroda power plant in Maharashtra in May have cost the company 570 million units of electricity, with a value of nearly Rs 200 crore. For most of the month of May, over 4 GW of coal power was shut down due to unavailability of water, it said.

The analysis includes case studies of two regions where water scarcity poses a financial risk to new coal plants – Solapur in Maharashtra and the Krishna Basin in Karnataka.

“NTPC’s Solapur power plant is facing commissioning delays due in part to uncertainty over water supplies. In Karnataka’s Krishna Basin, NTPC’s Kudgi power plant and KPCL’s Raichur power plant were affected by lack of water this summer. More coal plants are being built in the water-stressed region,” it said.

The NGO said that the Environment Ministry has given final Environmental Clearance to 17 GW of coal power plants and first stage Terms of Reference (TOR) to another 33 GW of new coal plants.

The CEA’s April quarterly report shows 72 GW of thermal power projects are under construction and India’s energy projections made in advance of the Paris climate summit in December 2015 indicate another 300 GW of thermal power proposed by 2030.

“It is clear that water scarcity can have a real impact on the profitability of coal power projects. Project lenders and shareholders alike should look carefully at this – the power sector cannot afford more stranded projects or non-performing assets,” the Greenpeace statement quoted Equity Analyst Jai Sharda a saying.

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