Nuclear power to become dependable source in 2050
“Nuclear power is the only dependable sources to meet our power requirement.” – P. S. Bami, President, India Energy Forum and Former CMD, NTPC
The present nuclear capacity is only 4,780 MW. By the end of 13th Five-Year Plan, the capacity will grow t0 18,000 MW. P. S. Bami shares why conventional sources or even solar and other renewable can’t meet this.
What is your opinion on the status of energy security as far as power sector in India is concerned? India is facing a chronic fuel shortage where imports hold the key. How do you see the things are heading?For a growing economy and growing population, India’s domestic energy supplies are limited. Dependence on imports will increase. Coal is the predominant source of power generation with 67 per cent of the installed capacity of 211GW is coal based and contributes about 70 per cent of the total power generation in the country. Our per-capita electricity consumption is 818 kW which is way below world average of about 2,890 kW. We have the 4th largest coal reserves in the world, and 75 per cent of coal produced in the country is used for power generation.
However, there is a huge demand-supply gap necessitating coal imports which are expected to rise from about 100 tonnes to 200 tonnes 2016-17. There is a shortage of domestic natural gas. Large capacity based on gas is stranded. Unless we are able to develop alternate sources for power like renewable and nuclear to meet our demand, we cannot have energy security or energy independence.
CERC has recently directed Haryana and Gujarat utilities to compensate Adani for costlier coal imports, your comments?The similar order has been given in the case of Tata Power also. It appears to me a positive development as power generator can’t run a project where it can’t recover coal cost on a sustained basis. How the order gets implemented will depend on the committee of the state government which has to discuss the issue with Adani and Tata and arrive at the compensatory figure. The CERC order has sent a good signal to the investors, and we will see a renewed interest in power sector from private developers.
On a recent move, NTPC has refused to sign fuel supply agreements with Coal India. How do you see this development?NTPC is the largest consumer of CIL, and fast developments are taking place. The ministries of coal and power are also involved, and an amicable solution will be found as both can’t live without each other. In commercial matters, there can be a difference of view, and let us read nothing more in that. In any case, both the ministers can meet and settle this.
How is Indian energy industry coping up to challenges like rising population and rational energy pricing regime?There is no doubt that energy prices have to be aligned with the world energy prices as we depend on energy imports in a big way. The recent moves by the government where petrol prices are adjusted with the price of oil imports is significant. The next move will be in diesel where large subsidies are involved. The demand by the industry to compensate fully for the undercharges will not be acceptable to the government on continuing basis. There is no other way except the subsidies have to go.
The Union Budget 2013 announced for deduction of investment allowance of 15 per cent on investments of Rs.100 crore or more in plant and machinery during the next 2 fiscal years of 2013-14 and 2014-15. What’s your opinion on that?It is a step to boost investment in infrastructure, and the anticipation is that private sector will contribute 47 per cent of investment of $1 trillion in the 12th Plan. This investment allowance of 15 per cent over Rs.100 crore will have an impact on reducing the cost of power equipment.
How do you see the road ahead for Indian power sector when it comes to nuclear energy?Though present nuclear capacity is only 4,780 MW, it will see additional 2,800 MW in 12th Plan and 18,000 MW in 13th Plan. If one wants to see what will be our dependable source in year 2050, I visualise that it will be nuclear as population will likely be 1.5 billion and energy requirement minimum 5,000 kW per individual. Best of conventional sources or even solar and other renewable can’t meet this. What is your opinion on the status of energy security as far as power sector in India is concerned?We have to make coal available in the country. There is not much gas discovered so far. There are abundant coal reserves but proven reserves have to be augmented by more drilling. This programme needs to be done at larger scale. We must exploit our available resource as we are the 4th largest producer of coal in the world, but our demand and availability gap is increasing and our dependence on imports is likely to be 200 tonnes per annum by 12th Plan.
Huge reserves of shale gas have been discovered in the United States, China and other countries. Indications are that we may also discover huge deposits of shale gas and surveys have been taken up. Intercontinental gas pipelines like TAPI (Turmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) and another from Iran also need to be pursued. As all these are finite resources and one day we will have to depend on renewable and nuclear sources for power supply, this is our energy security in the long run.
What steps should be taken to deal with strong agitation across the country against nuclear power sector?We have not done enough to allay the fears of people that there is total safety around nuclear plant and enough safeguards have been taken, particularly after Fukushima accident in Japan. The audit of safety was taken up. The results should be put in the public domain. The Atomic Energy Safety Board should be made independent.
There can be open debates on TV, and local newspapers can carry articles on the importance for nuclear power and operation of nuclear plants. Anti-nuclear group can be invited in seminars to express their fears and scientists can answer their objections. We have to depend on nuclear power and solar power. These are the dependable sources to meet our power requirement.
Nuclear power to become dependable source in 2050