Coal-Fired Power Plants Run by Utilities Must Use 5% Biomass Pellets Annually

The obligation will increase to 7% after two years

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The Ministry of Power has mandated that every coal-based thermal power project operated by power generation utilities equipped with bowl mills must incorporate a 5% blend of biomass pellets derived from agro residue annually.

This mandate will take effect one year from the date this guideline is issued. Subsequently, the obligation will increase to 7% after two years and remain at this level.

Similarly, all coal-based thermal power projects operated by power generation utilities with ball and race mills must annually utilize a 5% blend of torrefied biomass pellets made from agro residue.

Compliance will be mandatory within one year. The mandate will increase to 7% after two years.

All coal-based thermal power projects operated by power generation utilities with ball and tube mills must incorporate a 5% blend of torrefied biomass pellets with a volatile content below 22%, derived from agro residue. The mandate must be complied with within a year.

Generating utilities that have units under reserve shutdown or not dispatched due to merit order dispatch considerations must ensure an increase in the percentage of co-firing up to 10% in their other operational units or plants (5% in plants equipped with ball and tube mills).

These provisions on biomass utilization aim to ensure clarity and consistency in tariff determination and scheduling processes and facilitate the integration of biomass co-firing into the energy mix.

With India’s current biomass availability estimated at approximately 750 million metric tons annually and a surplus estimated at around 230 million metric tons, there is significant potential for utilizing biomass for power generation.

The ministry decided to set up a national mission on the use of biomass in coal-powered thermal power plants in 2021.

The mission’s main purpose was to address rampant air pollution caused by the burning of farm stubble and reduce the carbon footprint in thermal power generation.

The MOP had earlier recommended that all coal-based thermal power projects, except those equipped with ball and tube mills, incorporate a 5-10% blend of biomass pellets made from agro residues.

Power projects seeking exemptions or relaxation from mandatory co-firing may be considered case-by-case based on recommendations from the Central Electricity Authority.

The policy for biomass co-firing will remain in effect for 25 years or until the useful life of the thermal power project, whichever occurs earlier.

The minimum contract period for the procurement of biomass pellets by generating utilities will be set at seven years to prevent delays in awarding contracts by generating companies.

The contracts may include provisions for a set price of biomass pellets for the initial year, with yearly rate adjustments from the second year.

Biomass co-firing in 35 Indian thermal power plants has cut CO2 emissions by 100,000 tons, per the Ministry of Power. These plants, totaling 55,335 MW capacity, have co-fired about 80,525 tons of biomass until July 24, 2022.

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