The retrofit solution

A recent study by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has suggested that modifying and upgrading the existing machinery and technology in power plants and reducing transmission and distribution losses can ensure the availability of an additional 12,000 mw of electricity. According to the study, this will require an investment of Rs 12,400 crore. The figure compares favourably against the estimated investment of Rs 40,000 crore at current costs of generation to augment power generation to similar levels, not to mention the additional pollution and environmental damage that new plants would automatically ensure.

CPCB Chairman D K Biswas says that the cost of retrofitting will not be more than Rs 1 crore for one megawatt of electricity compared to Rs 3.5 to Rs 4 crore per MW for new plants. The study cites 3 main reasons for the poor performance of the power sector: the continued operation of plants which have outlived their lives, and the erosive character of coal and poor maintenance. The study also reveals that an improvement in the quality of coal used in the Nandan washery in Madhya Pradesh resulted in a rise in the plant utilisation factor of Satpura Power station from 73 to 96 per cent.