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Repurposing Maharashtra’s old coal plants for clean energy can deliver Rs 5,700 in benefits: Study

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NAGPUR, Dec 7 (PTI): Retiring and repurposing some of Maharashtra’s oldest and most expensive coal plants for clean energy and grid stability services can deliver Rs 5,700 crore in benefits, according to a study.

A research by Dr Gireesh Shrimali, head of Transition Finance Research, Oxford Sustainable Finance Group at the University of Oxford, has for the first time quantified the costs and benefits associated with retiring and repurposing 4,020 MW of old coal units at Bhusawal, Chandrapur, Koradi, Khaparkheda and Nashik, said Climate Risk horizons in a release.

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Repurposing some of Maharashtra’s oldest and most expensive coal plants by using the land and some of the old coal infrastructure for clean energy and grid stability services can deliver Rs 5,700 crore in benefits, showed the new analysis commissioned by Climate Risk Horizons.

The report explains how the state can maximise financial gains from repurposing older units, gradually reducing its dependence on coal over the coming decade, in line with India’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Climate Accord.

“The financial benefits of repurposing some or all of these coal plants would be between 2-4 times the costs of decommissioning, and would cover a substantial proportion of the new capital expenditure required for solar, batteries and synchronous condensers,” said Dr Shrimali.

He further said that the total decommissioning costs for the units assessed was approximately Rs 1,756 crore, while the one-time benefits from repurposing for solar PV with battery storage would be Rs 4,356 crore, the study showed.

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He said that the analysis also found that while repurposing coal plants for solar PV and battery storage, if the old power plant turbo generator is also repurposed to serve as a synchronous condenser, the benefits are even higher at Rs 5,700 crore.

“Utilising the pre-existing land and grid connection facilities would significantly reduce the cost of the renewable energy generated. This would bring the cost to Rs 1.87 and Rs 2.69 per unit of electricity respectively for solar PV and PV with battery storage, providing Maharashtra State Power Generation Company (Mahagenco) with a cheap source of flexible power,” said Shrimali.

Climate Risk Horizons CEO Ashish Fernandes said, “Maharashtra is already one of the leading states in India’s energy transition story. This study shows that shutting down and repurposing the state’s older, more expensive coal plants could provide a financially attractive opportunity to accelerate this transition in a way that benefits state finances.”

Fernandes added that these old coal units are near or past their end of life and have high running costs, up to Rs 6/kWh. They also need to be retrofitted with air pollution control equipment to comply with emission standards, at considerable expense.

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“Several studies have already shown that retiring old coal plants and replacing their planned generation with new, renewable energy can generate savings by way of lower electricity costs. This analysis looked at specifics of the plants in question in Maharashtra, and detailed decommissioning costs and financial benefits that would accrue from repurposing the existing land and electrical infrastructure for a combination of solar PV, battery storage and grid stabilisation services,” said Fernandes.

Repurposing the plants and their associated ash ponds for solar and battery storage would yield capacities of 1,224 MW of solar and 120 MW of 4-hour battery storage.

Suresh Chopane, president, Green Planet Society, Chandrapur (a hotspot for coal pollution), said with the severe air and water pollution problems caused by coal plants in the state, it is essential that Maharashtra reduces its dependence on expensive and obsolete coal plants. “We need to look at long term solutions, not just for public health, but also to arrest the rise in electricity prices.”

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