Power plants may be required to use thatch in the fuel mixture

A policy that made it compulsory for coal-fired power projects to use biomass pellets as 5% of their fuel mix and help farmers earn around ??15,000 crores per year could be mentioned in the budget speech of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, said two government officials familiar with developments.

The plan, tentatively named SAMARTH, is part of the government’s strategy to support India’s energy transition and tackle pollution from the burning of crop stubble by turning them into pellets and facilitating their sale.

The pellets are mixed with charcoal to generate electricity.

With Indian power plants consuming around 700 million tonnes (mt) of coal each year, a 5% mixture will burn approximately 35 mt less coal, helping to reduce carbon emissions. The plan is to encourage farmers to turn crop stubble into pellets rather than burning it. Stubble burning is endemic in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

Coal-fired power projects totaling 202.22 gigawatts (GW) remain the mainstay of India’s power generation and account for more than half of India’s power generation capacity. India has the world’s fourth largest reserves and is the second largest producer of coal.

“It has been mandatory that all thermal power plants use a mixture of 5% biomass pellets consisting mainly of agricultural residues and coal from one year from the date of publication of this directive. The obligation will increase to 7% (except for those who have ball mills, the use of biomass remains at 5%) with effect from two years after the date of issue of this decree “, in accordance with the revised October 8 policy for biomass Use for co-combustion power generation in coal-fired power plants.

The percentage of biomass pellets to be used for co-combustion will be reviewed over the 25-year policy or “useful life” of thermal power plants, whichever comes first. In addition, the minimum duration of the contract for the supply of these biomass pellets is seven years.

“The policy has been approved and is part of India’s strategy to reduce the carbon footprint,” one of the two government officials quoted above said, on condition of anonymity.

State-owned NTPC Ltd and Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh have started sourcing biomass pellets as fuel to generate electricity.

At the COP26 summit in Glasgow in November, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to reduce India’s carbon emissions by one billion tonnes by 2030, reduce the carbon intensity of the country’s economy. countries under 45% by the end of the decade and reach net zero. carbon emissions by 2070.

The commitment also includes meeting 50% of India’s energy needs from renewables by 2030 and increasing the capacity to generate electricity from non-fossil fuels to 500 GW from here the end of this decade.

Questions emailed to spokespersons for the finance and power ministries on Friday afternoon went unanswered until the time of publication.

Of about 750 million tonnes (mt) of biomass available each year in the country, about 230 mt is surplus, including agricultural residues.

The pollution in Delhi caused by the burning of crop stubble in Punjab and Haryana has become an annual flash point between the respective state governments.

The Union government is also considering a series of measures to reduce carbon emissions and intensity, such as an exemption from ??400 cess on every ton of coal used by energy projects meeting emission standards and a program tentatively named Roadmap for a Sustainable and Holistic Approach through National Energy Efficiency, or ROSHNEE, as reported by Mint earlier.

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