Mumbai: In a relief to the greater Mumbai region, the state electricity generation utility will expand the capacity of the Uran gas turbine power station to 850 MW. This capacity enhancement will provide support, albeit indirect, to the islanding system in Mumbai, and cater to the rising power demand in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) due to projects like the Navi Mumbai international airport, metro projects, data centres and rising urbanisation.
At present, the plant, which has an installed capacity of 672 MW, generates just about 300 MW due to old equipment and inadequate supply of gas. It is located in proximity to the load centres like Navi Mumbai, Thane and the industrial belt in Raigad.
Senior state government officials said that the Maharashtra State Power Generation Company Limited’s (MahaGenco) proposal was likely to be tabled before the state cabinet soon. The state government may infuse 20 per cent as equity in the ₹4,640 crore project, with the power generation utility raising the balance amount through financial institutions.
“We have sent a proposal to the state government,” confirmed Sanjay Khandare, chairman and managing director, MahaGenco. “The project will provide an embedded power generation project for the MMR and support for the islanding system in Mumbai city,” he added, stating that consumption in the region was rising. It will take around three years for the project to be completed from the date of work being awarded.
The islanding system was introduced in 1981 to insulate Mumbai from any blackouts caused by power outages in the state grid. The system severs Mumbai from the grid to service a limited area during any external grid disturbances. In case of a power failure, the islanding system separates Mumbai from the state grid.
Mumbai has seen a maximum power demand of around 3,700 MW and this is expected to soar to 6,000 MW by 2030. At present, it has a transmission capacity of around 4,000 MW. Considering the impediments in increasing the embedded generation capacity in Mumbai, work is also underway on additional transmission corridors to allow more power to be wheeled into the city from outside. Mumbai has an embedded generation capacity of 1,877 MW.
Officials said that as a gas-based project, it was flexible and hence easy to ramp up or ramp down production at the plant to maintain grid stability. Though the power will not be used for the city’s islanding per se, this could support this system in Mumbai through greater generation in the MMR and by ensuring better grid health. Moreover, after an October 2020 power outage grounded Mumbai to a halt, a Central Electricity Authority (CEA) team that investigated it pointed to the inadequacies of the transmission network in the MMR, where electricity demand is growing, and the need to increase embedded generation as against importing power from outside.
The state government official quoted earlier said that while the Uran project had been allocated 3.5 million metric standard cubic metres per day (MMSCMD) gas, it was getting between 1.5 to 2 MMSCMD. “We expect that after the capacity enhancement, the project will need 4 MMSCMD gas and we plan to meet the demand by both, supplies of gas from the existing linkages and also spot purchases… We have worked out various models and accordingly, the cost per unit of this power will vary between ₹3.3 and ₹5.1 per unit, which is still lower than the tariffs of power purchased from the exchange,” he added.
A senior MahaGenco official said that they hoped to ramp up production even with the present gas supply levels. “Now, we generate around 300 MW but our units are obsolete and work at lower efficiencies as they are around three-and-half decades old. This may increase to around 600 MW due to better efficiencies,” he explained.
The MahaGenco has a 13,902 MW capacity, including 9,750 MW in coal-based thermal power, 2,580 MW in hydro power, 672 MW in gas and 207 MW in solar energy. As the bulk of its capacity is in coal-based thermal power, it increases the utility’s dependence on coal to fire its generation. The Uran GTPS is the state-run generation utility’s only gas-fired power plant.