Interview with Gurdeep Singh: “Our goal for this fiscal year is the addition of 3.5 GW of capacity”

Gurdeep Singh, Chairman and Managing Director, NTPC Limited

In a recent interview with Power Line magazine, Gurdeep Singh, Chairman and Managing Director, NTPC Limited, talked about the company’s recent and upcoming initiatives, as well as its key goals and priorities for the future. Edited excerpts…

In light of the revised power demand projecti­ons under the Twentieth Electric Power Survey of India, do you think the country’s plans for thermal power plants need to be revisited?

The Central Electricity Authority (CEA) is conducting a thorough assessment of resource adequacy, taking into account demand projections, capacity under construction and future capacity in the pipeline. Given the critical importance of energy security for the country, it is important to consider all possible optio­ns, including thermal.

What is the current mix of NTPC’s generation portfolio? How is that likely to change over the next decade?

Currently, our energy portfolio comprises 81 per cent coal, 9 per cent gas and 10 per cent non-carbon sources, including re­newables and hydro. We have ambitious plans to expand our renewable energy capacity and reach 60 GW by 2032.

In addition to renewables, we have en­tered the field of nuclear energy through a joint venture with the Nuclear Power Corporation of India. We are at an ad­va­n­ced stage of discussions for the development of two nuclear power projects with a combined capacity of 4,200 MW, to be commissioned by 2032. Fur­ther, our subsidiary companies, North Eas­tern Electric Power Corporation Limited (NEEPCO) and THDC India Limited, are actively involved in setting up hydro­po­wer projects.

With these initiatives in place, by 2032, more than half of our targeted 132 GW capacity will be based on non-carbon sources, marking a significant stride to­wards a greener and more sustainable energy future.

How is NTPC progressing in its emission control initiatives (SO2, NOX, etc.)?

To ensure SO2 compliance, Flue Gas Desulphurisation (FGD) systems have been successfully commissioned for 3 GW of capacity, with work under way for an additional 61 GW. As per the current pro­gress, we are on track to complete th­ese systems within the specified timelines set by the environmental agencies. For NOX reduction, we have implemented combustion modification for over 90 per cent of our capacity.

What is the rationale for the focus on the C&I renewable energy space? What are the goals in this area?

Prioritising commercial and industrial (C&I) consumers within the energy sector holds immense significance. The in­dustrial sectors account for ap­p­roximately 42 per cent of the total po­wer consum­p­tion in the country, with the commercial segments contributing 8 per cent. Shif­ting these significant percentages towar­ds renewable energy sources would have an impact on the country’s overall energy consumption patterns.

Considering global energy transformations, several C&I consumers are opting for renewable power to reduce their carbon footprint and comply with en­vironmental, social and governance (ESG) st­an­dards. Encouraging these sectors to em­­brace renewable energy solutions pre­sents an opportunity for achieving substantial reductions in carbon emissions.

Recognising this potential, we are acti­ve­ly pursuing this opportunity. We are targeting that at least 20 per cent of our renewable capacity will be for direct supply to C&I customers. This approach will not only benefit individual busine­sses but will also contribute significantly to the broader goal of creating a more sus­ta­inable and environmentally res­po­n­­si­ble energy landscape.

“We have achieved substantial progress in both coal production and dispatch from our captive mines.”

What has been NTPC’s experience with green hydrogen blending with natural gas at Kawas?

In collaboration with Gujarat Gas Limi­ted (GGL), we have implemented a project for green hydrogen blending with piped na­tural gas (PNG) at our Ka­was township. The project was designed to carry out hy­drogen blending of 5-20 per cent volu­me/volume (v/v) in a staggered manner.

The project was commissioned in Jan­uary 2023 after obtaining regulatory approval from the Petroleum and Natu­ral Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB). The blended gas is being supplied to reside­n­ts of NTPC’s Kawas township without any interruption. Various studies we­re conducted for gas composition and ma­terial assessment in the PNG net­work. The re­su­lts for 5 per cent green hydrogen blen­ding showed that there was no impact on the material and the homogeneity of the gas mixture was maintained in the network at different locations. We have now approached PNGRB for permitting 10 per cent v/v hydrogen blending.

What has been the experience with the hydrogen bus trial in Leh?

We have carried out field trials of India’s first hydrogen-based FCEV (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle) bus, especially design­ed to withstand the challenging conditions of the Ladakh region, in collaboration with the bus manufacturer. These trials have included rigorous climatisation tests that are necessary for extreme weather and high altitudes, where the air is thin and the oxygen levels are low. The bus has been operated under various temperature and pressure combinations corresponding to different times of the day. This extensive testing has enab­led precise adjustments to be made to system components.

Moreover, the bus has been tested in di­ve­rse terrain, including different road gra­dients, hairpin bends and the typical la­ndscape of Leh, Ladakh. Load tests ha­ve also been conducted to assess torq­ue-speed characteristics and the performance of the bus in real-life conditions.

NTPC has implemented an MSW-to-green ch­ar­coal project. What has been the experience? Do you see more such projects coming up?

We have successfully completed the demonstration testing of our 600 to­nnes per day municipal solid waste (MSW)-to-green charcoal project in Varanasi, and the results are encouraging. Curr­ently, our focus is on finalising the re­maining infrastructural facilities to en­sure the smooth operation of the plant. We aim to complete the work within this fiscal year.

We have received interest from various state governments and municipal corporations, which have expressed their keen interest in setting up similar plants. We have already signed agreements with the respective authorities of Noida (Utt­ar Pradesh), Greater Noida (Uttar Prade­sh), Gorakhpur (Uttar Pradesh), Hubli (Kar­nataka) and Indore (Madhya Prade­sh). This widespread interest underscores the promising potential of our initiative, which is expected to promote a circular economy and the governme­nt’s “Swachh Bharat” mission.

“By 2032, more than half of our targeted 132 GW capacity will be based on non-carbon sources, marking a significant stride towards a greener and more sustainable energy future.”

Do you think that small modular reactors will be viable for advancing the country’s nuclear power plans?

The small modular reactor (SMR) is an emerging technology that is supposed to come with several advantages over conventional nuclear power reactors. These include enhanced safety, modular construction, flexibility and scalability, and reduced land footprint and emergency planning zone requirements.

The technology is being developed ba­sed on proven technology, that is, pressurised water reactors. SMRs are already in operation for ice-breaking applications and nuclear submarines. Further, significant research and development initiatives are being undertaken by various countries for the development and deployment of SMRs.

Apart from electricity generation, SMRs have a huge potential for non-electric applications in energy-intensive industries such as desalination, process heating, hydrogen generation, fertilisers and paper. With matured technology, mass-scale deployment and indigenous manufacturing, SMRs are expected to gain techno-economic viability and help in furthering India’s nuclear power plans.

What is the current status of coal mining?

We have achieved substantial progress in both coal production and dispatch from our captive mines. During the first half of 2023-24, our coal production stood at 16.1 MMT, registering a growth of 83 per cent over the previous year. Similarly, our coal dispatch reached 17.2 MMT, demonstrating a 94 per cent increase over the previous year. With this momentum, we are well on track to achieve our ambitious target of 34 MMT for 2023-24.

What are NTPC’s key goals for 2023-24?

Given the current power demand landscape, we anticipate a growth of over 6 per cent in our power generation compared to the previous year. Moreover, our goal for this fiscal year is the addition of 3.5 GW of capacity to our portfolio, of which we have already commissioned 1.6 GW, highlighting our rapid progress. In coal mining, our target for 2023-24 stands at 34 MMT, a substantial 47 per cent inc­rea­se over the previous year. These achi­evements underscore our dedication to meeting the energy needs of the country.