Power supply crisis: The capacity of diesel gensets is close to 100 gigawatts

With growing electricity demand-supply discrepancies and high electricity prices in commercial units, businesses and other organizations are increasingly relying on diesel generators (gensets) to ensure uninterrupted power supply. In the last count, the country’s diesel genset capacity was about 95 gigawatts (GW), or a quarter of the country’s total installed power (400 GW).

In contrast, at the end of April 2022, renewable energy capacity (wind + solar) was 109 gigawatts, but the power generated in these units is currently only a quarter of that.

Diesel gensets, in contrast to utility-scale plants that run on diesel as fuel, are mostly used as back-up power where power reliability is a major concern.

Experts have noticed that the growing trend of diesel gensets with bulk consumers reflects the slanting dynamics of the power sector. The country, which aims to meet clean-emission regulations aimed at generating 500 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2030, recently NTPC, the largest coal-based power producer, said it would also increase its fossil fuel capacity without compromising green energy plans. .

However, due to its polluting nature and regulatory orders forcing companies to shut down winter diesel production for three to four months in the National Capital Region to control pollution, companies are expected to move to cleaner alternatives such as battery storage in the future. The year has seen an increase in searches for battery storage from large corporations over the past year, experts say.

Shuvrangshu Patnaik, a partner at Deloitte India, said diesel gensets were only used as a back-up power and should not be compared to the installed power of electricity. However, since reliability is a problem and there is a cost involved with the operation, various industries are looking to switch to cheaper alternatives if the operation is for long hours.

The operating cost of Diesel Genset alone is Rs. 30 / unit for high-rise condominiums, hospitals and hotels, which are considered as essential service providers. “If we set up a battery storage facility on a 4-hour operation basis, it would cost around Rs 7.5 crore / MW anywhere but it could be cleaner and more reliable than diesel genset at Rs 3.5 crore / MW,” he said.

The challenge with battery storage is that it requires twice as much space as diesel gensets. “Diesel gensets are portable, compact and modular. Less than half an acre of land would be needed to set up a 50-megawatt diesel genset, but that space would be doubled for battery storage. There are plans to stack up batteries vertically; If this happens, it will save a lot of space for customers, ”said Patnaik.

Ashok Srinivas of Prayas (Energy Group), a Pune-based public interest group for the power sector, said that although the reliability of electricity will vary for different industries and locations, India is still a few years away from the reliability achieved in developed countries.

“In the case of diesel gensets, the working hours are usually much shorter because the overall power situation in the country has improved significantly in many cases. These are mostly used for back-up power for essential services, so we must see how many and for how many hours they are operated if we are to compare with the actual installed capacity, the strong main line power used for regular supply, “Srinivas Said.

The total capacity of diesel generators in the country was 72 gigawatts in 2015-16 and then according to the Economic Survey 2016 it was expected to increase at the rate of 5 gigawatts per year. According to the Central Electricity Agency (CEA) data, the diesel genset capacity for industrial loads of more than 1 MW was 14 gigawatts, and a significant portion of the remaining (58 gigawatts) could be contributed by micro and small industries, with less than 1 MW load capacity. .

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