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Electricity in India

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Electricity in India

*Electricity Production in India till 2012
Sources of electricity in India by Installed Capacity as of 2013
Sabarmati Thermal Power Station, Gujarat

The electricity sector in India had an installed capacity of 254.649 GW as of end October 2014.[1] India became the world's third largest producer of electricity in the year 2013 with 4.8% global share in electricity generation surpassing Japan and Russia.[2] Captive power plants have an additional 39.375 GW capacity. Non Renewable Power Plants constitute 87.55% of the installed capacity, and Renewable Power Plants constitute the remaining 12.45% of total installed Capacity.[3] India generated around 967 TWh (967,150.32 GWh) of electricity[4] (excluding electricity generated from renewable and captive power plants) during the 2013–14 fiscal. The total annual generation of electricity from all types of sources was 1102.9 TeraWatt-hours (TWh) in 2013.[2]

As of March 2013, the per capita total electricity consumption in India was 917.2 kWh.[5] The per capita average annual domestic electricity consumption in India in 2009 was 96 kWh in rural areas and 288 kWh in urban areas for those with access to electricity in contrast to the worldwide per capita annual average of 2,600 kWh and 6,200 kWh in the European Union.[6] Electric energy consumption in agriculture is highest (18%) in India. The per capita electricity consumption is lower compared to many countries despite cheaper electricity tariff in India.[7]


The first demonstration of electric light in Calcutta was conducted on 24 July 1879 by P W Fleury & Co. On 7 January 1897, Kilburn & Co secured the Calcutta electric lighting license as agents of the Indian Electric Co, which was registered in London on 15 January 1897. A month later, the company was renamed the Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation. The control of the company was transferred from London to Calcutta only in 1970. Enthused by the success of electricity in Calcutta, power was thereafter introduced in Bombay.[8] Mumbai saw electric lighting demonstration for the first time in 1882 at Crawford Market, and Bombay Electric Supply & Tramways Company (BEST) set up a generating station in 1905 to provide electricity for the tramway.[9] The first hydroelectric installation in India was installed near a tea estate at Sidrapong for the Darjeeling Municipality in 1897.[10] The first electric train ran between Bombay's Victoria Terminus and Kurla along the Harbour Line, in 1925.[11] In 1931, electrification of the metre gauge track between Madras Beach and Tambaram was started.[12]

Growth of Installed Capacity in India[5]
Installed Capacity
as on
Thermal (MW) Nuclear
Renewable (MW) Total (MW) % Growth
(on yearly basis)
Coal Gas Diesel Sub-Total
Hydel Other
31-Dec-1947 756 - 98 854 - 508 - 508 1,362 -
31-Dec-1950 1,004 - 149 1,153 - 560 - 560 1,713 8.59%
31-Mar-1956 1,597 - 228 1,825 - 1,061 - 1,061 2,886 13.04%
31-Mar-1961 2,436 - 300 2,736 - 1,917 - 1,917 4,653 12.25%
31-Mar-1966 4,417 137 352 4,903 - 4,124 - 4,124 9,027 18.80%
31-Mar-1974 8,652 165 241 9,058 640 6,966 - 6,966 16,664 10.58%
31-Mar-1979 14,875 168 164 15,207 640 10,833 - 10,833 26,680 12.02%
31-Mar-1985 26,311 542 177 27,030 1,095 14,460 - 14,460 42,585 9.94%
31-Mar-1990 41,236 2,343 165 43,764 1,565 18,307 - 18,307 63,636 9.89%
31-Mar-1997 54,154 6,562 294 61,010 2,225 21,658 902 22,560 85,795 4.94%
31-Mar-2002 62,131 11,163 1,135 74,429 2,720 26,269 1,628 27,897 105,046 4.49%
31-Mar-2007 71,121 13,692 1,202 86,015 3,900 34,654 7,760 42,414 132,329 5.19%
31-Mar-2012 112,022 18,381 1,200 131,603 4,780 38,990 24,503 63,493 199,877 9.00%
30-June-2014[3] 148,478 22,608 1,200 172,286 4,780 40,730 @31,692 72,422 249,488 10.35%

@The break up of other RES is small hydro (3804 MW), wind power (21136 MW), biomass power/co-generation (4014 MW), waste-to-power (107 MW) and solar power (2132 MW).

The planned additional thermal power generation capacity excluding renewable power during the remaining period of the 12th plan period (up to March, 2017) is 90,925 MW.[13]


Demand drivers
Satellite pictures of India show thick haze and black carbon smoke above India and other Asian countries. This problem is particularly severe along the Ganges Basin in northern India. Major sources of particulate matter and aerosols are believed to be smoke from biomass burning in rural parts of India, and air pollution from large cities in northern India.

Of the 1.4 billion people of the world who have no access to electricity in the world, India accounts for over 300 million. The International Energy Agency estimates India will add between 600 GW to 1,200 GW of additional new power generation capacity before 2050.[15] This added new capacity is equivalent to the 740 GW of total power generation capacity of European Union (EU-27) in 2005. The technologies and fuel sources India adopts, as it adds this electricity generation capacity, may make significant impact to global resource usage and environmental issues.[16]

Some 800 million Indians use traditional fuels – fuelwood, agricultural waste and biomass cakes – for cooking and general heating needs. These traditional fuels are burnt in cook stoves, known as chulah or chulha in some parts of India.[17][18] Traditional fuel is inefficient source of energy, its burning releases high levels of smoke, PM10 particulate matter, NOX, SOX, PAHs, polyaromatics, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and other air pollutants.[19][20][21] Some reports, including one by the World Health Organisation, claim 300,000 to 400,000 people in India die of indoor air pollution and carbon monoxide poisoning every year because of biomass burning and use of chullahs.[22] Traditional fuel burning in conventional cook stoves releases unnecessarily large amounts of pollutants, between 5 to 15 times higher than industrial combustion of coal, thereby affecting outdoor air quality, haze and smog, chronic health problems, damage to forests, ecosystems and global climate. Burning of biomass and firewood will not stop, these reports claim, unless electricity or clean burning fuel and combustion technologies become reliably available and widely adopted in rural and urban India. The growth of electricity sector in India may help find a sustainable alternative to traditional fuel burning.

In addition to air pollution problems, a 2007 study finds that discharge of untreated sewage is single most important cause for pollution of surface and ground water in India. There is a large gap between generation and treatment of domestic wastewater in India. The problem is not only that India lacks sufficient treatment capacity but also that the sewage treatment plants that exist do not operate and are not maintained. Majority of the government-owned sewage treatment plants remain closed most of the time in part because of the lack of reliable electricity supply to operate the plants. The wastewater generated in these areas normally percolates in the soil or evaporates. The uncollected wastes accumulate in the urban areas cause unhygienic conditions, release heavy metals and pollutants that leaches to surface and groundwater.[23][24] Almost all rivers, lakes and water bodies are severely polluted in India. Water pollution also adversely impacts river, wetland and ocean life. Reliable generation and supply of electricity is essential for addressing India's water pollution and associated environmental issues.

Other drivers for India's electricity sector are its rapidly growing economy, rising exports, improving infrastructure and increasing household incomes.

Demand trends

In a May 2014 report, India's Central Electricity Authority anticipated, for 2014–15 fiscal year, a base load energy deficit and peaking shortage to be 5.1% and 2% respectively.[25] India also expects all regions to face energy shortage up to a maximum of 17.4% in North Eastern region.

All India (Anticipated) Power Supply Position in FY2014-15[25]
Region Energy Peak Power
Requirement (MU) Availability (MU) Surplus(+)/Deficit(-) Demand (MW) Supply (MW) Surplus(+)/Deficit(-)
Northern 328,944 318,837 -3.1% 47,570 46,899 -1.4%
Western 288,062 289,029 +0.3% 45,980 52,652 +14.5%
Southern 298,180 260,366 -12.7% 41,677 32,423 -22.2%
Eastern 118,663 114,677 -3.4% 17,608 17,782 +1.0%
North-Eastern 14,823 12,248 -17.4% 2,543 2,215 -12.9%
All India 1,048,672 995,157 -5.1% 147,815 144,788 -2.0%

Gujarat has the highest power surplus of any Indian state, with about 1.8 GW more power available than its internal demand. The state was expecting more capacity to become available. It was expecting to find customers, sell excess capacity to meet power demand in other states of India, thereby generate revenues for the state. Andhra Pradesh leads in the greatest power deficit with peak power being less by 3.2 GW against demand.[25][26]

Despite an ambitious rural electrification programme,[27] some 400 million Indians lose electricity access during blackouts.[28] While 80% of Indian villages have at least an electricity line, just 52.5% of rural households have access to electricity. In urban areas, the access to electricity is 93.1% in 2008. The overall electrification rate in India is 64.5% while 35.5% of the population still live without access to electricity.[29]

According to a sample of 97,882 households in 2002, electricity was the main source of lighting for 53% of rural households compared to 36% in 1993.[30]

The 17th electric power survey of India report claims:[31]

  • Over 2010–11, India's industrial demand accounted for 35% of electrical power requirement, domestic household use accounted for 28%, agriculture 21%, commercial 9%, public lighting and other miscellaneous applications accounted for the rest.
  • The electrical energy demand for 2016–17 is expected to be at least 1,392 Tera Watt Hours, with a peak electric demand of 218 GW.
  • The electrical energy demand for 2021–22 is expected to be at least 1,915 Tera Watt Hours, with a peak electric demand of 298 GW.

If current average transmission and distribution average losses remain same (32%), India needs to add about 135 GW of power generation capacity, before 2017, to satisfy the projected demand after losses.

McKinsey claims[32] that India's demand for electricity may cross 300 GW, earlier than most estimates. To explain their estimates, they point to four reasons:

  • India's manufacturing sector is likely to grow faster than in the past
  • Domestic demand will increase more rapidly as the quality of life for more Indians improve
  • About 125,000 villages are likely to get connected to India's electricity grid
  • Blackouts and load shedding artificially suppresses demand; this demand will be sought as revenue potential by power distribution companies

A demand of 300 GW will require about 400 GW of installed capacity, McKinsey notes. The extra capacity is necessary to account for plant availability, infrastructure maintenance, spinning reserve and losses.

In 2010, electricity losses in India during transmission and distribution were about 24%, while losses because of consumer theft or billing deficiencies added another 10–15%.[33]

According to two studies published in 2004, theft of electricity in India, amounted to a nationwide loss of $4.5 billion.[34][35] This led several states of India to enact and implement regulatory, and institutional framework; develop a new industry and market structure; and privatise distribution. The state of Andhra Pradesh, for example, enacted an electricity reform law; unbundled the utility into one generation, one transmission, and four distribution and supply companies; and established an independent regulatory commission responsible for licensing, setting tariffs, and promoting efficiency and competition. Some state governments amended the Indian Electricity Act of 1910 to make electricity theft a cognisable offence and impose stringent penalties. A separate law, unprecedented in India, provided for mandatory imprisonment and penalties for offenders, allowed constitution of special courts and tribunals for speedy trial, and recognised collusion by utility staff as a criminal offence. The state government made advance preparations and constituted special courts and appellate tribunals as soon as the new law came into force. High quality metering and enhanced audit information flow was implemented. Such campaigns have made a big difference in the Indian utilities' bottom line. Monthly billing has increased substantially, and the collection rate reached more than 98%. Transmission and distribution losses were reduced by 8%.

Power cuts are common throughout India and the consequent failure to satisfy the demand for electricity has adversely effected India's economic growth.[36]

Growth of Electricity Consumption in India[5]
as on
Total (in GWh) % of Total Per-Capita
Consumption (in kWh)
Domestic Commercial Industrial Traction Agriculture Misc
31-Dec-1947 4,182 10.11% 4.26% 70.78% 6.62% 2.99% 5.24% 16.3
31-Dec-1950 5,610 9.36% 5.51% 72.32% 5.49% 2.89% 4.44% 18.2
31-Mar-1956 10,150 9.20% 5.38% 74.03% 3.99% 3.11% 4.29% 30.9
31-Mar-1961 16,804 8.88% 5.05% 74.67% 2.70% 4.96% 3.75% 45.9
31-Mar-1966 30,455 7.73% 5.42% 74.19% 3.47% 6.21% 2.97% 73.9
31-Mar-1974 55,557 8.36% 5.38% 68.02% 2.76% 11.36% 4.13% 126.2
31-Mar-1979 84,005 9.02% 5.15% 64.81% 2.60% 14.32% 4.10% 171.6
31-Mar-1985 124,569 12.45% 5.57% 59.02% 2.31% 16.83% 3.83% 228.7
31-Mar-1990 195,098 15.16% 4.89% 51.45% 2.09% 22.58% 3.83% 329.2
31-Mar-1997 315,294 17.53% 5.56% 44.17% 2.09% 26.65% 4.01% 464.6
31-Mar-2002 374,670 21.27% 6.44% 42.57% 2.16% 21.80% 5.75% 671.9
31-Mar-2007 525,672 21.12% 7.65% 45.89% 2.05% 18.84% 4.45% 559.2
31-March-2012 785,194 22.00% 8.00% 45.00% 2.00% 18.00% 5.00% 883.6
31-March-2013 852,902 21.79% 8.33% 44.87% 1.81% 17.95% 5.25% 917.2Provisional

Rural Electrification

In December 2011, over 300 million Indian citizens had no access to frequent electricity. Over one third of India's rural population lacked electricity, as did 6% of the urban population. Of those who did have access to electricity in India, the supply was intermittent and unreliable. In 2010, blackouts and power shedding interrupted irrigation and manufacturing across the country.[37][15] States such as Gujarat,[38] Madhya Pradesh,[39] etc. provide continuous power supply.

Rural Electrification rates N.o of states and UTs Remarks [40]
100% 14
99% 4 electrification %, un-electrified villages: Gujarat (99.8%, 35), Maharashtra (99.9%, 36), Himachal Pradesh (99.9%, 15), West Bengal (99.99%, 4)
+95% 7 Assam (96.1%), Bihar (97%), Chhattisgarh (97.4%), Rajasthan (97.6%), Madhya Pradesh (97.7%), Jammu & Kashmir (98.2%), Uttaranchal (98.9%)
+90% 2 Tripura (92.9%), Mizoram (93.5%)
+80% 5 Orissa (81.9%), Meghalaya (86.3%), Manipur (86.3%), Uttar Pradesh (88.9%), Jharkhand (89.2%)
Under 80% 3 Andaman & Nicobar (67.7%), Nagaland (70.1%), Arunachal Pradesh (75.5%)

India's Ministry of Power launched Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana as one of its flagship programme in March 2005 with the objective of electrifying over one lakh (100,000) un-electrified villages and to provide free electricity connections to 2.34 crore (23.4 million) rural households. This free electricity programme promises energy access to India's rural areas, but is in part creating problems for India's electricity sector.[37]

Electricity consumption

Per-Capita Electricity consumption (kWh)[41](in 2011–12)
State/Union Territory Region Per-Capita Consumption
Dadra & Nagar Haveli Western 13,766.6
Daman & Diu Western 7,785.2
Goa Western 2,025.5
Gujarat Western 1,663.2
Chhattisgarh Western 1,319.6
Maharashtra Western 1,204.4
Madhya Pradesh Western 671.5
Western Region 1,201.2
Puducherry Southern 2,124.7
Tamil Nadu Southern 1,276.6
Andhra Pradesh Southern 1,156.5
Karnataka Southern 1,081.4
Kerala Southern 593.8
Lakshadweep Southern 1,098.0
Southern Region 938.88
Punjab Northern 1,799.0
Haryana Northern 1,628.3
Delhi Northern 1,586.7
Himachal Pradesh Northern 1,289.4
Uttarakhand Northern 1,232.2
Chandigarh Northern 1,217.4
Jammu & Kashmir Northern 1,015.2
Rajasthan Northern 927.4
Uttar Pradesh Northern 449.9
Northern Region 833.2
Odisha Eastern 1,145.8
Sikkim Eastern 886.4
Jharkhand Eastern 790.2
West Bengal Eastern 563.8
Andaman & Nicobar Islands Eastern 501.4
Bihar Eastern 133.6
Eastern Region 521.2
Arunachal Pradesh North Eastern 683.1
Meghalaya North Eastern 657.6
Mizoram North Eastern 506.7
Nagaland North Eastern 257.2
Tripura North Eastern 253.8
Assam North Eastern 249.8
Manipur North Eastern 235.9
North Eastern Region 257.98
National' 883.6

Electricity generation

Tehri Hydroelectric Power station's lake in Uttarakhand. Tehri is world's 7th tallest dam.[42] With a capacity of 2.4 GW, it is India's largest hydroelectric power generation installation.

Power development in India was first started in 1897 in Darjeeling, followed by commissioning of a hydropower station at Sivasamudram in Karnataka during 1902. Thermal power stations which generates electricity more than 1,000 MW are referred as Super Thermal Power Stations.

India's electricity generation capacity additions from 1950 to 1985 were very low when compared to developed nations. Since 1990, India has been one of the fastest growing markets for new electricity generation capacity. India's electricity generation capacity has increased from 179 TW-h in 1985 to 1053 TW-h in 2012.[2]

India's Power Finance Corporation Limited projects that current and approved electricity capacity addition projects in India are expected to add about 100 GW of installed capacity between 2012 and 2017. This growth makes India one of the fastest growing markets for electricity infrastructure equipment.[43][44] India's installed capacity growth rates are still less than those achieved by China, and short of capacity needed to ensure universal availability of electricity throughout India by 2017.

The table below presents the electricity generation capacity, as well as availability to India's end user and their demand. The difference between installed capacity and availability is the transmission, distribution and consumer losses. The gap between availability and demand is the shortage India is suffering. This shortage in supply ignores the effects of waiting list of users in rural, urban and industrial customers; it also ignores the demand gap from India's unreliable electricity supply.

Electricity sector capacity and availability in India (excludes effect of blackouts/power-shedding)
Item Value Date reported Reference
Total installed capacity (GW) 209.27 October 2012 [45][46]
Available base load supply (MU) 893371 October 2012 [47]
Available peak load supply (GW) 125.23 October 2012 [47]
Demand base load (MU) 985317 October 2012 [47]
Demand peak load (GW) 140.09 October 2012 [47]

State-owned and privately owned companies are significant players in India's electricity sector, with the private sector growing at a faster rate. India's central government and state governments jointly regulate electricity sector in India.

Major economic and social drivers for India's push for electricity generation include India's goal to provide universal access, the need to replace current highly polluting energy sources in use in India with cleaner energy sources, a rapidly growing economy, increasing household incomes, limited domestic reserves of fossil fuels and the adverse impact on the environment of rapid development in urban and regional areas.[48]

State-wise All India installed capacity[49]
(as of 31-December-2013 including allocated shares in joint and central sector utilities)
State/Union Territory Thermal (in MW) Nuclear
(in MW)
Renewable (in MW) Total (in MW) % of National
Installed Capacity
Coal Gas Diesel Sub-Total
Hydel Other
Maharastra 20,239.27 3,475.93 - 23,715.20 690.14 3,331.84 4,768.80 8,100.64 32,505.98 13.90%
Gujarat 15,738.27 4,978.99 17.48 20,734.74 559.32 772.00 4,203.06 4,975.06 26,269.12 11.23%
Madhya Pradesh 8,503.89 257.18 - 8,761.07 273.24 3,223.66 644.38 3,868.04 12,902.35 5.52%
Chhattisgarh 6,388.49 - - 6,388.49 47.52 120.00 308.90 428.90 6,864.91 2.93%
Dadra & Nagar Haveli 1,622.35 196.91 - 1,819.26 228.14 - - - 2,047.40 0.88%
Goa 326.17 48.00 - 374.17 25.80 - 0.05 0.05 400.02 0.17%
Daman & Diu 36.71 4.20 - 40.91 7.38 - - - 48.29 0.02%
Central - Unallocated 1,622.35 196.91 - 1,819.26 228.14 - - - 2,047.40 0.88%
Western 52,899.51 8,988.31 17.48 61,905.30 1,840.00 7,447.50 9,925.19 17,372.69 81,117.99 34.68%
Uttar Pradesh 10,682.95 549.97 - 11,232.92 335.72 1,859.45 846.48 2,705.93 14,274.57 6.10%
Rajasthan 7,679.72 775.03 - 8,454.75 573.00 1,548.32 3,483.05 5,031.37 14,059.12 6.01%
Haryana 6,082.03 560.29 3.92 6,646.24 109.16 1,373.21 123.20 1,496.41 8,251.81 3.53%
Punjab 3,790.88 288.92 - 4,079.80 208.04 3,029.53 297.58 3,327.11 7,614.95 3.26%
Delhi 4,556.37 2,116.01 - 6,672.38 122.08 690.33 16.00 706.33 7,500.79 3.21%
Himachal Pradesh 152.02 61.88 3.92 214.03 34.08 2,950.94 625.91 3,576.85 3,824.96 1.64%
Uttarakhand 300.50 69.35 - 369.85 22.28 2,006.01 189.87 2,195.88 2,588.01 1.11%
Jammu & Kashmir 329.32 304.14 8.94 642.40 77.00 1,658.03 147.53 1,805.56 2,524.96 1.08%
Chandigarh 32.54 15.32 - 47.86 8.84 52.88 - 52.88 109.58 0.05%
Central - Unallocated 977.19 290.35 - 1,267.54 129.80 524.05 - 524.05 1,921.39 0.82%
Northern 34,583.50 5,031.26 12.99 39,627.75 1,620.00 15,692.75 5,729.62 21,422.37 62,670.12 26.79%
Tamil Nadu 8,726.40 1026.30 411.66 10,014.36 524.00 2,182.20 7,946.13 10,128.33 20,666.69 8.83%
Andhra Pradesh 8,573.48 3,370.40 36.80 11,980.68 275.78 3,734.53 1,294.49 5,029.02 17,285.48 7.39%
Karnataka 6,158.39 - 234.42 6,392.81 254.86 3,599.80 3,693.19 7,292.99 13,940.66 5.96%
Kerala 914.56 533.58 256.44 1,704.58 95.60 1881.50 193.52 2,075.02 3,875.20 1.66%
Puducherry 230.09 32.50 - 262.59 19.28 - - - 281.87 0.12%
Central - Unallocated 1,329.58 - - 1,329.58 150.48 - - - 1,480.06 0.82%
Southern 25,932.50 4,962.78 939.32 31,834.60 1,320.00 11,398.03 13,127.33 24,525.36 57,679.96 24.66%
West Bengal 7,216.87 100.00 12.20 7,329.07 - 1,248.30 131.45 1,379.75 8,708.82 3.72%
Odisha 5,115.06 - - 5,115.06 - 2,166.93 99.80 2,266.73 7,381.79 3.16%
DVC 6,555.60 90.00 - 6,645.60 - 193.26 - 193.26 6838.86 2.92%
Jharkhand 2,358.88 - - 2,358.88 - 200.93 20.05 220.98 2,579.86 1.10%
Bihar 1,954.70 - - 1,954.70 - 129.43 114.00 243.43 2,198.13 0.94%
Assam 60.00 598.52 20.69 679.21 - 429.72 31.11 460.83 1,140.04 0.49%
Meghalaya - 65.61 2.05 67.66 - 356.58 31.03 387.61 455.27 0.19%
Tripura - 349.84 4.85 354.69 - 62.37 16.01 78.38 433.07 0.19%
Sikkim 82.61 - 5.00 87.61 - 174.27 52.11 226.38 313.99 0.13%
Arunachal Pradesh - 32.05 15.88 47.93 - 97.57 103.91 201.48 249.41 0.11%
Manipur - 46.96 45.41 92.37 - 80.98 5.45 86.43 178.80 0.08%
Mizoram - 27.28 51.86 79.14 - 34.31 36.47 70.78 149.92 0.06%
Nagaland - 32.84 2.00 34.84 - 53.32 28.67 81.99 116.83 0.05%
Central - Unallocated 1,454.16 55.40 - 1,509.56 - 127.15 - 127.15 1,636.71 0.70%
Eastern 24,797.88 1,398.50 159.94 26,356.32 - 5,355.12 670.06 6,025.18 32,381.5 13.84%
Andaman & Nicobar - - 60.05 60.05 - - 10.35 10.35 70.40 0.03%
Lakshadweep - - 9.97 9.97 - - - - 9.97 0.00%
Islands - - 70.02 70.02 - - 10.35 10.35 80.37 0.03%
Total 138,213.39 20,380.85 1,199.75 159,793.99 4,780 39,893.40 29,462.55 69,355.95 233,929.94 100.00%

In 2010, the five largest power companies in India, by installed capacity, in decreasing order, were the Government of India-owned NTPC, Government of India-owned NHPC, followed by three privately owned companies: Tata Power, Reliance Power and Adani Power.

In India's effort to add electricity generation capacity over 2009–2011, both central government and state government owned power companies have repeatedly failed to add the capacity targets because of issues with procurement of equipment and poor project management. Private companies have delivered better results.[50]

Sector-wise All India installed capacity[49]
Sector Thermal (in MW) Hydel (in MW) Nuclear (in MW) Renewable (in MW) Total (in MW) % of total
Central Govt. 52,500.54 9,717.4 4,780.00 - 66,997.94 28.64%
State Govt. 59,627.93 27,482.00 - 3,726.77 90,836.70 38.83%
Private 47,665.52 2,694.00 - 25,735.78 76,095.30 32.53%
Total 159,793.99 39,893.40 4,780 29,462.55 233,929.94 100.00%

Conventional sources

Thermal power

A thermal power plant in Maharashtra

Thermal power plants convert energy rich fuels such as coal, natural gas, petroleum products, agricultural waste, domestic trash/waste, etc. into electricity. Other sources of fuel include landfill gas and biogases. In some plants, renewal fuels such as biogas are co-fired with coal.

Coal and lignite accounted for about 60% of India's total installed capacity.[3] India's electricity sector consumes about 72% of the coal produced in the country.[51]

India expects that its projected rapid growth in electricity generation over the next couple of decades is expected to be largely met by thermal power plants.

Coal supply constraints

A large part of Indian coal reserve is similar to Gondwana coal. It is of low calorific value and high ash content. The iron content is low in India's coal, and toxic trace element concentrations are negligible. The natural fuel value of Indian coal is poor. On average, the Indian power plants using India's coal supply consume about 0.7 kg of coal to generate a kWh, whereas United States thermal power plants consume about 0.45 kg of coal per kWh. This is because of the difference in the quality of the coal, as measured by the Gross Calorific Value (GCV). On average, Indian coal has a GCV of about 4500 Kcal/kg, whereas the quality elsewhere in the world is much better; for example, in Australia, the GCV is 6500 Kcal/kg approximately.[52] India imported nearly 95 Mtoe of steam coal and coking coal which is 29% of total consumption to meet the demand in electricity, cement and steel production.[53] China has banned import of high ash coal, high sulphur coal and contaminated coal with trace metals which are causing air pollution.[54]

The high ash content in India's coal affects the thermal power plant's potential emissions. Therefore, India's Ministry of Environment & Forests has mandated the use of beneficiated coals whose ash content has been reduced to 34% (or lower) in power plants in urban, ecologically sensitive and other critically polluted areas, and ecologically sensitive areas. Coal benefaction industry has rapidly grown in India, with current capacity topping 90 MT.

Thermal power plants in India deploy a wide range of technologies. Some of the major technologies include:

  • Steam cycle facilities (most commonly used for large utilities);
  • Gas turbines (commonly used for moderate sized peaking facilities);
  • Cogeneration and combined cycle facility (the combination of gas turbines or internal combustion engines with heat recovery systems); and
  • Internal combustion engines (commonly used for small remote sites or stand-by power generation).

India has an extensive review process, one that includes environment impact assessment, prior to a thermal power plant being approved for construction and commissioning. The Ministry of Environment and Forests has published a technical guidance manual to help project proposers and to prevent environmental pollution in India from thermal power plants.[55]

Natural gas supply constraints
Gasification of Char/Coal

The installed capacity of natural gas based power plants is 21,727 MW at the end of financial year 2013-14. These base load power plants are operating at overall PLF of 25% only due to severe shortage of Natural gas in the country.[56] Imported LNG is too costly for the power generation. Many of these power stations are shut down throughout the year for lack of natural gas supply. Natural gas shortage for power sector alone is nearly 100 MMSCMD

Gasification of coal or lignite or biomass, produces syngas or coal gas or wood gas which is a mixture of hydrogen, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide gases. Coal gas can be converted in to synthetic natural gas by using Fischer–Tropsch process at low pressure and high temperature. Coal gas can also be produced by underground coal gasification where the coal deposits are located deep in the ground or uneconomical to mine the coal.[57] Synthetic natural gas production technologies have tremendous scope to meet the SNG requirements of Gas based power stations fully using the locally available coal (or imported coal in short run). Dankuni coal complex is producing syngas which is piped to the industrial users in Calcutta.[58] Many coal based fertiliser plants which are shut down can also be retrofitted economically to produce synthetic natural gas for bridging natural gas shortages. It is estimated that SNG production cost would be below 6 $ per Mbtu.[59][60] The indigenously produced natural gas by the Exploration & Production (E&P) contractors sold at prevailing international gas prices do not guarantee the natural gas supply whereas the SNG produced from coal/ biomass is reliable & dependable fuel supply to the gas based power stations and other natural gas consumers.

Hydro power

Indira Sagar Dam partially completed in 2008
Nagarjuna Sagar Dam and hydroelectric power plant on the Krishna River. It is the world's largest masonry dam, with an installed capacity of 800MW. The dam also irrigates about 1.4 million acres of previously drought-prone land.

The hydro-electric power plants at Darjeeling and Shimsha (Shivanasamudra) were established in 1898 and 1902 respectively and were among the first in Asia.

India is endowed with economically exploitable and viable hydro potential assessed to be about 84,000 MW at 60% load factor. In addition, 6740 MW in terms of installed capacity from Small, Mini, and Micro Hydel schemes have been assessed. Also, 56 sites for pumped storage schemes with an aggregate installed capacity of 94,000 MW have been identified. It is the most widely used form of renewable energy. India is blessed with immense amount of hydro-electric potential and ranks 5th in terms of exploitable hydro-potential on global scenario.

The present installed capacity as of 31 May 2014 is approximately 40,661.41 MW which is 16.36% of total electricity generation in India.[3] The public sector has a predominant share of 97% in this sector.[61] National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC), Northeast Electric Power Company (NEEPCO), Satluj jal vidyut nigam (SJVNL), Tehri Hydro Development Corporation, NTPC-Hydro are a few public sector companies engaged in development of hydroelectric power in India.

Pumped storage schemes are perfect centralised peaking power stations for the load management in the electricity grid. Pumped storage schemes would be in high demand for meeting peak load demand and storing the surplus electricity as India graduates from electricity deficit to electricity surplus. They also produce secondary /seasonal power at no additional cost when rivers are flooding with excess water. Storing electricity by other alternative systems such as batteries, compressed air storage systems, etc. is more costlier than electricity production by standby generator. India has already established nearly 6800 MW pumped storage capacity which is part of its installed hydro power plants.[62]

Nuclear power

Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant under construction in 2009. It was 96% complete as of March 2011, with first phase expected to be in use in 2012. With initial installed capacity of 2 GW, this plant will be expanded to 6.8 GW capacity.

As of 2011, India had 4.8 GW of installed electricity generation capacity using nuclear fuels. India's Nuclear plants generated 32455 million units or 3.75% of total electricity produced in India.[63]

India's nuclear power plant development began in 1964. India signed an agreement with General Electric of the United States for the construction and commissioning of two boiling water reactors at Tarapur. In 1967, this effort was placed under India's Department of Atomic Energy. In 1971, India set up its first pressurised heavy water reactors with Canadian collaboration in Rajasthan. In 1987, India created Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited to commercialise nuclear power.

Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited is a public sector enterprise, wholly owned by the Government of India, under the administrative control of its Department of Atomic Energy. Its objective is to implement and operate nuclear power stations for India's electricity sector. The state-owned company has ambitious plans to establish 63 GW generation capacity by 2032, as a safe, environmentally benign and economically viable source of electrical energy to meet the increasing electricity needs of India.[64]

India's nuclear power generation effort satisfies many safeguards and oversights, such as getting ISO-14001 accreditation for environment management system and peer review by World Association of Nuclear Operators including a pre-start up peer review. Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited admits, in its annual report for 2011, that its biggest challenge is to address the public and policy maker perceptions about the safety of nuclear power, particularly after the Fukushima incident in Japan.[63]

In 2011, India had 18 pressurised heavy water reactors in operation, with another four projects of 2.8 GW capacity launched. The country plans to implement fast breeder reactors, using plutonium based fuel. Plutonium is obtained by reprocessing spent fuel of first stage reactors. India successfully launched its first prototype fast breeder reactor of 500 MW capacity in Tamil Nadu, and now operates two such reactors.

India has nuclear power plants operating in the following states: Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. These reactors have an installed electricity generation capacity between 100 to 540 MW each. New reactors with installed capacity of 1000 MW per reactor are expected to be in use by 2012.

In 2011, The Wall Street Journal reported the discovery of uranium in a new mine in India, the country's largest ever. The estimated reserves of 64,000 tonnes, could be as large as 150,000 tonnes (making the mine one of the world's largest). The new mine is expected to provide India with a fuel that it now imports. Nuclear fuel supply constraints had limited India's ability to grow its nuclear power generation capacity. The newly discovered ore, unlike those in Australia, is of slightly lower grade. This mine is expected to be in operation in 2012.[65]

India's share of nuclear power plant generation capacity is just 1.2% of worldwide nuclear power production capacity, making it the 15th largest nuclear power producer. Nuclear power provided 3% of the country's total electricity generation in 2011. India aims to supply 9% of it electricity needs with nuclear power by 2032.[63] India's largest nuclear power plant project under implementation is at Jaitapur, Maharashtra in partnership with Areva, France.

Non-conventional sources

Renewable energy in India is a sector that is still in its infancy.

India's electricity sector is amongst the world's most active players in renewable energy utilization, especially wind energy.[66] As of 31 January 2014, India had an installed capacity of about 31.15 GW of non-conventional renewable technologies-based electricity, about 13.32% of its total.[67][68] For context, the total installed capacity for electricity in Switzerland was about 18 GW in 2009.

Renewal Energy Installed Capacity in India[67](as of 31 January 2014)
Type Technology Installed capacity
(in MW)
Grid Connected Power
Wind 20,298.83
Small Hydel Power Projects 3,774.15
Bagasse Cogeneration 2,512.88
Solar 2,208.36
Biomass Power & Gasification 1,285.60
Waste to Power 99.08
Total - Grid Connected Power 30,177.90
Off-Grid/Captive Power
Bagasse Cogeneration 517.34
SPV Systems (>1 kW) 159.77
Biomass Gasifiers - Industrial 146.40
Waste to Power 119.63
Biomass Gasifiers - Rural 17.63
Water Mills/Micro Hydel 10.18
Aerogenerator/Hybrid Systems 2.18
Total - Off-Grid/Captive Power 973.13
TOTAL 31,151.03

As of August 2011, India had deployed renewal energy to provide electricity in 8846 remote villages, installed 4.4 million family biogas plants, 1800 microhydel units and 4.7 million square metres of solar water heating capacity. India anticipates to add another 3.6 GW of renewal energy installed capacity by December 2012.[69]

India plans to add about 30 GW of installed electricity generation capacity based on renewal energy technologies, by 2017.[70]

Renewable energy projects in India are regulated and championed by the central government's Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.

Solar power

Solar resources in India

India is endowed with a vast solar energy potential. India receives one of the highest global solar radiation - an energy of about 5,000 trillion kWh per year is incident over India's land mass with most parts receiving 4-7 kWh per m2 per day.[71] Under Solar Mission, a central government initiative, India plans to generate 1 GW of power by 2013 and up to 20 GW grid-based solar power, 2 GW of off-grid solar power and cover 20 million square metres with solar energy collectors by 2020.[72] India plans utility scale solar power generation plants through solar parks with dedicated infrastructure by state governments, among others, the governments of Gujarat and Rajasthan.[73]

The Government of Gujarat taking advantage of the national initiative and high solar irradiation in the state, launched the Solar Power Policy in 2009 and proposes to establish a number of large-scale solar parks starting with the Charanka Solar Park in Patan district in the sparsely populated northern part of the state. The development of solar parks will streamline the project development timeline by letting government agencies undertake land acquisition and necessary permits, and provide dedicated common infrastructure for setting up solar power generation plants largely in the private sector. This approach will facilitate the accelerated installation of private sector solar power generation capacity reducing costs by addressing issues faced by stand alone projects. Common infrastructure for the solar park include site preparation and leveling, power evacuation, availability of water, access roads, security and services. In parallel with the central government's initiative, the Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission has announced feed-in tariff to mainstream solar power generation which will be applied for solar power generation plants in the solar park. Gujarat Power Corporation Limited is the responsible agency for developing the solar park of 500 MW and will lease the lands to the project developers to generate solar power. Gujarat Energy Transmission Corporation Limited will develop the transmission evacuation from the identified interconnection points with the solar developer. This project is being supported, in part, by the Asian Development Bank.[73]

The Indian Solar Loan Programme, supported by the United Nations Environment Programme has won the prestigious Energy Globe World award for Sustainability for helping to establish a consumer financing programme for solar home power systems. Over the span of three years more than 16,000 solar home systems have been financed through 2,000 bank branches, particularly in rural areas of South India where the electricity grid does not yet extend. Launched in 2003, the Indian Solar Loan Programme was a four-year partnership between UNEP, the UNEP Risoe Centre, and two of India's largest banks, the Canara Bank and Syndicate Bank.[74][75]

Canal Solar Power Project in Kadi, Gujarat

Installation of solar power plants require nearly 2.4 hectares (6 acres) land per MW capacity which is similar to coal fired power plants when life cycle coal mining, consumptive water storage & ash disposal areas are also accounted and hydro power plants when submergence area of water reservoir is also accounted. 1.33 million MW capacity solar plants can be installed in India on its 1% land (32,000 square km). There are vast tracts of land suitable for solar power in all parts of India exceeding 8% of its total area which are unproductive barren and devoid of vegetation.[76] Part of waste lands (32,000 square km) when installed with solar power plants can produce 2000 billion Kwh of electricity (two times the total generation in the year 2013-14) with land productivity/yield of 1.5 million Rs per acre (6 Rs/kwh price) which is at par with many industrial areas and many times more than the best productive irrigated agriculture lands. Moreover these solar power units are not dependent on supply of any raw material and are self productive. There is unlimited scope for solar electricity to replace all fossil fuel energy requirements (natural gas, coal, lignite, nuclear fuels and crude oil) if all the marginally productive lands are occupied by solar power plants in future.[77] The solar power potential of India can meet perennially to cater per capita energy consumption at par with USA/Japan for the peak population in its demographic transition.[78]

Land acquisition is a challenge to solar farm projects in India. Some state governments are exploring means to address land availability through innovation; for example, by exploring means to deploy solar capacity above their extensive irrigation canal projects, thereby harvesting solar energy while reducing the loss of irrigation water by solar evaporation.[79] The state of Gujarat was first to implement the Canal Solar Power Project, to use 19,000 km (12,000 mi) long network of Narmada canals across the state for setting up solar panels to generate electricity. It was the first ever such project in India.

Synergy with irrigation water pumping and hydro power stations

Price history of silicon PV cells since 1977

The major disadvantage of solar power (PV type) is that it can not produce electricity during the night time and cloudy day time also. In India, this disadvantage can be overcome by installing pumped-storage hydroelectricity stations. Ultimate electricity requirement for river water pumping (excluding ground water pumping) is 570 billion Kwh to pump one cubic meter of water for each square meter area by 125 m height on average for irrigating 140 million hectares of net sown area (42% of total land) for three crops in a year.[80] This is achieved by utilising all the usable river waters by interlinking Indian rivers.[81] These river water pumping stations would also be envisaged with pumped-storage hydroelectricity features to generate electricity during the night time. These pumped-storage stations would work at 200% water pumping requirement during the day time and generate electricity at 50% of total capacity during the night time. Also, all existing and future hydro power stations can be expanded with additional pumped-storage hydroelectricity units to cater night time electricity consumption. Most of the ground water pumping power can be met directly by solar power.[82]

Wind power

Wind farm in Rajasthan.
Wind turbines midst India's agricultural farms.
Wind farms midst paddy fields in India.

India has the fifth largest installed wind power capacity in the world.[83] In 2010, wind power accounted for 6% of India's total installed power capacity, and 1.6% of the country's power output.

The development of wind power in India began in the 1990s by Tamil Nadu Electric Board near Tuticorin, and has significantly increased in the last few years. Suzlon is the leading Indian company in wind power, with an installed generation capacity of 6.2 GW in India. Vestas is another major company active in India's wind energy initiative.[84]

As December 2011, the installed capacity of wind power in India was 15.9 GW, spread across many states of India.[70][83] The largest wind power generating state was Tamil Nadu accounting for 30% of installed capacity, followed in decreasing order by Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, and Rajasthan.[85] It is estimated that 6 GW of additional wind power capacity will be installed in India by 2012.[86] In Tamil Nadu, wind power is mostly harvested in the southern districts such as Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli and Tuticorin.

The state of Gujarat is estimated to have the maximum gross wind power potential in India, with a potential of 10.6 GW.[84]

Biomass power

In this system biomass, bagasse, forestry and agro residue & agricultural wastes are used as fuel to produce electricity.[87] Nearly 750 million tons of non edible (by cattle) biomass is available annually in India which can be put to use for higher value addition.

Torrefied biomass

Huge quantity of imported coal is being used in pulverised coal fired power stations. Raw biomass can not be used in the pulverised coal mills as they are difficult to grind in to fine powder due to caking property of raw biomass. However biomass can be used after Torrefaction in the pulverised coal mills for replacing imported coal.[88] North west and southern regions can replace imported coal use with torrefied biomass where surplus agriculture/crop residual biomass is available.

Biomass gasifier

India has been promoting biomass gasifier technologies in its rural areas, to utilise surplus biomass resources such as rice husk, crop stalks, small wood chips, other agro-residues. The goal was to produce electricity for villages with power plants of up to 2 MW capacities. During 2011, India installed 25 rice husk based gasifier systems for distributed power generation in 70 remote villages of Bihar. The Largest Biomass based power plant in India is at Sirohi, Rajasthan having the capacity of 20 MW, i.e., Sambhav Energy Limited. In addition, gasifier systems are being installed at 60 rice mills in India. During the year, biomass gasifier projects of 1.20 MW in Gujarat and 0.5 MW in Tamil Nadu were successfully installed.[70]


This pilot programme aims to install small-scale biogas plants for meeting the cooking energy needs in rural areas of India. During 2011, some 45000 small-scale biogas plants were installed. Cumulatively, India has installed 4.44 million small-scale biogas plants.

In 2011, India started a new initiative with the aim to demonstrate medium size mixed feed biogas-fertiliser pilot plants. This technology aims for generation, purification/enrichment, bottling and piped distribution of biogas. India approved 21 of these projects with aggregate capacity of 37016 cubic metre per day, of which 2 projects have been successfully commissioned by December 2011.[70]

India has additionally commissioned 158 projects under its Biogas based Distributed/Grid Power Generation programme, with a total installed capacity of about 2 MW.

India is rich in biomass and has a potential of 16,881MW (agro-residues and plantations), 5000MW (bagasse cogeneration) and 2700MW (energy recovery from waste). Biomass power generation in India is an industry that attracts investments of over INR 6 billion every year, generating more than 5000 million units of electricity and yearly employment of more than 10 million man-days in the rural areas.

As of 2010, India burnt over 200 million tonnes of coal replacement worth of traditional biomass fuel every year to meet its energy need for cooking and other domestic use. This traditional biomass fuel – fuelwood, crop waste and animal dung – is a potential raw material for the application of biomass technologies for the recovery of cleaner fuel, fertilisers and electricity with significantly lower pollution.

Biomass available in India can and has been playing an important role as fuel for sugar mills, textiles, paper mills, and small and medium enterprises (SME). In particular there is a significant potential in breweries, textile mills, fertiliser plants, the paper and pulp industry, solvent extraction units, rice mills, petrochemical plants and other industries to harness biomass power.[89]

Geothermal energy

Geothermal energy is thermal energy generated and stored in the Earth. Thermal energy is the energy that determines the temperature of matter. India's geothermal energy installed capacity is experimental. Commercial use is insignificant.

According to some ambitious estimates, India has 10,600 MW of potential in the geothermal provinces but it still needs to be exploited.[90] India has potential resources to harvest geothermal energy. The resource map for India has been grouped into six geothermal provinces:[91]

  • Himalayan Province – Tertiary Orogenic belt with Tertiary magmatism
  • Areas of Faulted blocks – Aravalli belt, Naga-Lushi, West coast regions and Son-Narmada lineament.
  • Volcanic arc – Andaman and Nicobar arc.
  • Deep sedimentary basin of Tertiary age such as Cambay basin in Gujarat.
  • Radioactive Province – Surajkund, Hazaribagh, Jharkhand.
  • Cratonic province – Peninsular India

India has about 340 hot springs spread over the country. Of this, 62 are distributed along the northwest Himalaya, in the States of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. They are found concentrated along a 30-50-km wide thermal band mostly along the river valleys. Naga-Lusai and West Coast Provinces manifest a series of thermal springs. Andaman and Nicobar arc is the only place in India where volcanic activity, a continuation of the Indonesian geothermal fields, and can be good potential sites for geothermal energy. Cambay graben geothermal belt is 200 km long and 50 km wide with Tertiary sediments. Thermal springs have been reported from the belt although they are not of very high temperature and discharge. During oil and gas drilling in this area, in recent times, high subsurface temperature and thermal fluid have been reported in deep drill wells in depth ranges of 1.7 to 1.9 km. Steam blowout have also been reported in the drill holes in depth range of 1.5 to 3.4 km. The thermal springs in India's peninsular region are more related to the faults, which allow down circulation of meteoric water to considerable depths. The circulating water acquires heat from the normal thermal gradient in the area, and depending upon local condition, emerges out at suitable localities. The area includes Aravalli range, Son-Narmada-Tapti lineament, Godavari and Mahanadi valleys and South Cratonic Belts.[91]

In a December 2011 report, India identified six most promising geothermal sites for the development of geothermal energy. These are, in decreasing order of potential:

  • Tattapani in Chhattisgarh
  • Puga in Jammu & Kashmir
  • Cambay Graben in Gujarat
  • Manikaran in Himachal Pradesh
  • Surajkund in Jharkhand
  • Chhumathang in Jammu & Kashmir

India plans to set up its first geothermal power plant, with 2–5 MW capacity at Puga in Jammu and Kashmir.[92]

Tidal wave energy

Tidal energy technologies harvest energy from the seas. The potential of tidal wave energy becomes higher in certain regions by local effects such as shelving, funnelling, reflection and resonance.

India is surrounded by sea on three sides, its potential to harness tidal energy is significant.

Energy can be extracted from tides in several ways. In one method, a reservoir is created behind a barrage and then tidal waters pass through turbines in the barrage to generate electricity. This method requires mean tidal differences greater than 4 metres and also favourable topographical conditions to keep installation costs low. One report claims the most attractive locations in India, for the barrage technology, are the Gulf of Khambhat and the Gulf of Kutch on India's west coast where the maximum tidal range is 11 m and 8 m with average tidal range of 6.77 m and 5.23 m respectively. The Ganges Delta in the Sunderbans, West Bengal is another possibility, although with significantly less recoverable energy; the maximum tidal range in Sunderbans is approximately 5 m with an average tidal range of 2.97 m. The report claims, barrage technology could harvest about 8 GW from tidal energy in India, mostly in Gujarat. The barrage approach has several disadvantages, one being the effect of any badly engineered barrage on the migratory fishes, marine ecosystem and aquatic life. Integrated barrage technology plants can be expensive to build.

In December 2011, the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy, Government of India and the Renewable Energy Development Agency of Govt. of West Bengal jointly approved and agreed to implement India's first 3.75 MW Durgaduani mini tidal power project. Indian government believes that tidal energy may be an attractive solution to meet the local energy demands of this remote delta region.[92]

Another tidal wave technology harvests energy from surface waves or from pressure fluctuations below the sea surface. A report from the Ocean Engineering Centre, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras estimates the annual wave energy potential along the Indian coast is between 5 MW to 15 MW per metre, suggesting a theoretical maximum potential for electricity harvesting from India's 7500 kilometre coast line may be about 40 GW. However, the realistic economical potential, the report claims, is likely to be considerably less.[93] A significant barrier to surface energy harvesting is the interference of its equipment to fishing and other sea bound vessels, particularly in unsettled weather. India built its first seas surface energy harvesting technology demonstration plant in Vizhinjam, near Thiruruvananthpuram.

The third approach to harvesting tidal energy consists of ocean thermal energy technology. This approach tries to harvest the solar energy trapped in ocean waters into usable energy. Oceans have a thermal gradient, the surface being much warmer than deeper levels of ocean. This thermal gradient may be harvested using modified Rankine cycle. India's National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) attempted this approach over the last 20 years, but without success. In 2003, with Saga University of Japan, NIOT attempted to build and deploy a 1 MW demonstration plant.[94] However, mechanical problems prevented success. After initial tests near Kerala, the unit was scheduled for redeployment and further development in the Lakshadweep Islands in 2005. The demonstration project's experience have limited follow-on efforts with ocean thermal energy technology in India.

Electricity transmission and distribution

Electricity transmission grid in eastern India.
A tower supporting 220kV line near Ennore, Chennai
Installed transmission (circuit km) and distribution capacity (MVA) up to June, 2014
Capacity Substations [95]
Transmission lines [96]
( / MVA ratio#
± 500 kV HVDC 13,500 9,432 0.699
765 kV 88,500 12,367 0.140
400 KV 180,872 127,261 0.704
200 KV 258,444 145,561 0.563

# the ratio to be multiplied with transmission line capacity (MVA) to give average installed length of transmission line per one MVA of installed substation capacity at each voltage level.

The all time maximum peak load is not exceeding 151,000 MW in the unified grid whereas the all time peak load met is 136,000 MW on 30/6/2014.[97][98] The maximum achieved demand factor of substations is nearly 61.91% at 200 KV level. The operational performance of the huge capacity substations and the vast network of high voltage transmission lines with low demand factor is not satisfactory in meeting the peak electricity load. Detailed forensic engineering studies are to be undertaken and system inadequacies rectified to evolve in to smart grid for maximising utility of the existing transmission infrastructure with optimum future capital investments.

The July 2012 blackout, affecting the north of the country, was the largest power grid failure in history by number of people affected. The introduction of Availability Based Tariff (ABT) has brought about stability to a great extent in the Indian transmission grids.

India's network technical losses is 23.65% in 2013 compared to world average of less than 15%.[49] The Government has pegged the national T&D losses at around 24% for the year 2011 & has set a target of reducing them to 17.1% by 2017 & to 14.1% by 2022. A high proportion of non-technical losses are caused by illegal tapping of lines, and faulty electric meters that underestimate actual consumption also contribute to reduced payment collection. A case study in Kerala estimated that replacing faulty meters could reduce distribution losses from 34% to 29%.[15]

Problems with India's power sector

India's electricity sector faces many issues. Some are:[37][21][99][100]

  • A system of cross-subsidization is practiced based on the principle of 'the consumer's ability to pay'. In general, the industrial and commercial consumers subsidize the domestic and agricultural consumers.[101] Further, Government giveaways such as free electricity for farmers, partly to curry political favour, have depleted the cash reserves of state-run electricity-distribution system. This has financially crippled the distribution network, and its ability to pay for power to meet the demand.[102] This situation has been worsened by government departments of India that do not pay their bills.
  • Key implementation challenges for India's electricity sector include new project management and execution, ensuring availability of fuel quantities and qualities, lack of initiative to develop large coal and natural gas resources available in India, land acquisition, environmental clearances at state and central government level, and training of skilled manpower to prevent talent shortages for operating latest technology plants.[103]
  • Shortages of fuel: despite abundant reserves of coal, India is facing a severe shortage of coal. The country isn't producing enough to feed its power plants. Some plants do not have reserve coal supplies to last a day of operations. India's monopoly coal producer, state-controlled Coal India, is constrained by primitive mining techniques and is rife with theft and corruption; Coal India has consistently missed production targets and growth targets. Poor coal transport infrastructure has worsened these problems. To expand its coal production capacity, Coal India needs to mine new deposits. However, most of India's coal lies under protected forests or designated tribal lands. Any mining activity or land acquisition for infrastructure in these coal-rich areas of India, has been rife with political demonstrations, social activism and public interest litigations.
  • Poor pipeline connectivity and infrastructure to harness India's abundant coal bed methane and shale gas potential.
  • The giant new offshore natural gas field has delivered less fuel than projected. India faces a shortage of natural gas.
  • Hydroelectric power projects in India's mountainous north and north east regions have been slowed down by ecological, environmental and rehabilitation controversies, coupled with public interest litigations.
  • Theft of power
  • Losses in the connector systems/service connections leading to premature failure of capital equipments like transformers
  • India's nuclear power generation potential has been stymied by political activism since the Fukushima disaster in Japan.
  • Average transmission, distribution and consumer-level losses exceeding 30% which includes auxiliary power consumption of thermal power stations, fictitious electricity generation by wind generators & independent power producers (IPPs), etc.
  • Over 300 million (300 million) people in India have no access to electricity. Of those who do, almost all find electricity supply intermittent and unreliable.
  • Lack of clean and reliable energy sources such as electricity is, in part, causing about 800 million (800 million) people in India to continue using traditional biomass energy sources – namely fuel wood, agricultural waste and livestock dung – for cooking and other domestic needs.[17] Traditional fuel combustion is the primary source of indoor air pollution in India, causes between 300,000 to 400,000 deaths per year and other chronic health issues.
  • India's coal-fired, oil-fired and natural gas-fired thermal power plants are inefficient and offer significant potential for greenhouse gas (CO2) emission reduction through better technology. Compared to the average emissions from coal-fired, oil-fired and natural gas-fired thermal power plants in European Union (EU-27) countries, India's thermal power plants emit 50% to 120% more CO2 per kWh produced.[104]

Resource potential in electricity sector

According to Oil and Gas Journal, India had approximately 38 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of proven natural gas reserves as of January 2011, world's 26th largest. United States Energy Information Administration estimates that India produced approximately 1.8 Tcf of natural gas in 2010, while consuming roughly 2.3 Tcf of natural gas. The electrical power and fertiliser sectors account for nearly three-quarters of natural gas consumption in India. Natural gas is expected to be an increasingly important component of energy consumption as the country pursues energy resource diversification and overall energy security.[105][106]

Until 2008, the majority of India's natural gas production came from the Mumbai High complex in the northwest part of the country. Recent discoveries in the Bay of Bengal have shifted the centre of gravity of Indian natural gas production.

The country already produces some coalbed methane and has major potential to expand this source of cleaner fuel. According to a 2011 Oil and Gas Journal report, India is estimated to have between 600 to 2000 Tcf of shale gas resources (one of the world's largest). Despite its natural resource potential, and an opportunity to create energy industry jobs, India has yet to hold a licensing round for its shale gas blocks. It is not even mentioned in India's central government energy infrastructure or electricity generation plan documents through 2025. The traditional natural gas reserves too have been very slow to develop in India because regulatory burdens and bureaucratic red tape severely limit the country's ability to harness its natural gas resources.[37][104][107]

Electricity trading with neighbour countries

India has constructed few hydro projects in Bhutan totalling to nearly 2600 MW. Most of the electricity generated by Bhutan from these hydro projects is exported to India. India can also enter into long term power purchase agreements with China for developing the Zangmu Dam, a hydro power plant in the Brahmaputra River basin of Tibet region. India can also supply its surplus/imported electricity to Sri Lanka by undersea cable link. There is ample trading synergy for India with its neighbour countries in securing its energy requirements.

Electricity as substitute to imported LPG and kerosene

The net import of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) is 6.093 million tons and the domestic consumption is 13.568 million tons with Rs. 41,546 crores subsidy to the domestic consumers in the year 2012-13.[108] The LPG import content is nearly 40% of total consumption in India. The affordable electricity retail tariff (860 Kcal/Kwh at 90% heating efficiency) to replace LPG (lower heating value 11,000 Kcal/Kg at 75% heating efficiency) in domestic cooking is 6.47 Rs/Kwh when the retail price of LPG cylinder is Rs 1000 (without subsidy) with 14.2 kg LPG content. Replacing LPG consumption with electricity reduces its imports substantially.

The domestic consumption of kerosene is 7.349 million tons with Rs. 30,151 crores subsidy to the domestic consumers in the year 2012-13. The subsidised retail price of kerosene is 13.69 Rs/litre whereas the export/import price is 48.00 Rs/litre. The affordable electricity retail tariff (860 Kcal/Kwh at 90% heating efficiency) to replace kerosene (lower heating value 8240 Kcal/litre at 75% heating efficiency) in domestic cooking is 6.00 Rs/Kwh when Kerosene retail price is 48 Rs/litre (without subsidy).

In the year 2013-14, the plant load factor (PLF) of coal fired thermal power stations is only 65.43% whereas these stations can run above 85% PLF comfortably provided there is adequate electricity demand in the country.[109] The additional electricity generation at 85% PLF is nearly 240 billion units which is adequate to replace all the LPG and kerosene consumption in domestic sector. The incremental cost of generating additional electricity is only their coal fuel cost which is less than 3 Rs/Kwh. Enhancing the PLF of coal fired stations and encouraging domestic electricity consumers to substitute electricity in place of LPG and kerosene in household cooking, would reduce the government subsidies and idle capacity of thermal power stations can be put to use economically. The domestic consumers who are willing to surrender the subsidised LPG/kerosene permits or eligible for subsidised LPG/kerosene permits, may be given free electricity connection and subsidised electricity tariff.

During the year 2014, IPPs are offering to sell solar power below 5.50 Rs/Kwh to feed in to the high voltage grid.[110][111] This price is close to affordable electricity tariff for the solar power to replace LPG and Kerosene use (after including subsidy on LPG & Kerosene) in domestic sector.

Electricity driven vehicles

The retail prices of petrol and diesel are high in India to make electricity driven vehicles more economical as more and more electricity is generated from solar energy in near future without appreciable environmental effects. The retail price of diesel is 53.00 Rs/litre in the year 2012-13. The affordable electricity retail price (860 Kcal/Kwh at 75% input electricity to shaft power efficiency) to replace diesel (lower heating value 8572 Kcal/litre at 40% fuel energy to crank shaft power efficiency) is 9.97 Rs/Kwh. The retail price of petrol is 75.00 Rs/litre in the year 2012-13. The affordable electricity retail price (860 Kcal/Kwh at 75% input electricity to shaft power efficiency) to replace petrol (lower heating value 7693 Kcal/litre at 33% fuel energy to crank shaft power efficiency) is 19.06 Rs/Kwh. In the year 2012-13, India consumed 15.744 million tons petrol and 69.179 millon tons diesel which are mainly produced from imported crude oil at huge foreign exchange out go.[108]

V2G is also feasible with electricity driven vehicles to contribute for catering to the peak load in the electricity grid. Electricity driven vehicles would become popular in future when its energy storage/battery technology becomes more long lasting and maintenance free.

Human resource development

Rapid growth of electricity sector in India demands that talent and trained personnel become available as India's new installed capacity adds new jobs. India has initiated the process to rapidly expand energy education in the country, to enable the existing educational institutions to introduce courses related to energy capacity addition, production, operations and maintenance, in their regular curriculum. This initiative includes conventional and renewal energy.

A Ministry of Renewal and New Energy announcement claims State Renewable Energy Agencies are being supported to organise short-term training programmes for installation, operation and maintenance and repair of renewable energy systems in such places where intensive RE programme are being implemented. Renewable Energy Chairs have been established in IIT Roorkee and IIT Kharagpur.[70]

Education and availability of skilled workers is expected to be a key challenge in India's effort to rapidly expand its electricity sector.

Regulation and administration

The Ministry of Power is India's apex central government body regulating the electrical energy sector in India. This ministry was created on 2 July 1992. It is responsible for planning, policy formulation, processing of projects for investment decisions, monitoring project implementation, training and manpower development, and the administration and enactment of legislation in regard to thermal, hydro power generation, transmission and distribution. It is also responsible for the administration of India's Electricity Act (2003), the Energy Conservation Act (2001) and to undertake such amendments to these Acts, as and when necessary, in conformity with the Indian government's policy objectives.[112]

Electricity is a concurrent list subject at Entry 38 in List III of the seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India. In India's federal governance structure, this means that both the central government and India's state governments are involved in establishing policy and laws for its electricity sector. This principle motivates central government of India and individual state governments to enter into memorandum of understanding to help expedite projects and reform electricity sector in respective state.[113]


India lit up at night. This media, courtesy of NASA, was taken by the crew of Expedition 29 on 21 October 2011. It starts over Turkmenistan, moving east. India begins past the long wavy solid orange line, marking the lights at the India-Pakistan borderline. New Delhi, India's capital and the Kathiawar Peninsula are lit. So are Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bangalore and many smaller cities in central and southern India, as this International Space Station's video shifts south-eastward through southern India, into the Bay of Bengal. Lightning storms are also present, represented by the flashing lights throughout the video. The pass ends over western Indonesia.

Multi Commodity Exchange has sought permission to offer electricity future markets in India.[114]

Government-owned power companies

India's Ministry of Power administers central government owned companies involved in the generation of electricity in India. These include National Thermal Power Corporation, Damodar Valley Corporation, National Hydroelectric Power Corporation and Nuclear Power Corporation of India. The Power Grid Corporation of India is also administered by the Ministry; it is responsible for the inter-state transmission of electricity and the development of national grid.

The Ministry works with various state governments in matters related to state government owned corporations in India's electricity sector. Examples of state corporations include Telangana Power Generation Corporation, Andhra Pradesh Power Generation Corporation Limited, Assam Power Generation Corporation Limited, Tamil Nadu Electricity Board, Maharashtra State Electricity Board, Kerala State Electricity Board, and Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam Limited.[1]

Funding of power infrastructure

India's Ministry of Power administers Rural Electrification Corporation Limited and Power Finance Corporation Limited. These central government owned public sector enterprises provide loans and guarantees for public and private electricity sector infrastructure projects in India.

Budgetary support

After the enactment of Electricity Act 2003 budgetary support to power sector is negligible.[115] State Electricity Boards get initial financial help from Central Government in the event of their unbundling.

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External links

  • - Latest news about Indian Power Sector at one place
  • National electricity Plan - 2012, CEA, GoI
  • Electricity grid maps of southern region
  • Macro Patterns in the Use of Traditional Biomass Fuels – A Stanford/TERI report on energy sector and human history
  • India's Energy Policy and Electricity Production
  • Electricity industry in Public Sector in India- Dr M Sarngadharan and Dr Shina Radhakrishnan
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