Per capita electricity consumption in India is relatively low (Fig. 11.1) due to a large rural population that is not connected to the grid and significant gap between demand and supply of electricity. With increased per capita income and economic growth, the demand for electricity has outpaced supply. Although, India has a significant installed base of hydroelectric power generation, fossil-fuel generated power, primarily from coal based thermal power plants, remains the key contributor to the total electricity generation. As of July 2008, total installed generation capacity of the Indian power sector was 145.6 GW. Fossil fuel based power generation had the largest share (~ 65%) followed by hydro (~25%), other renewable (~8%) and nuclear power (less than 3%). Of the fossil fueled generation capacity, 93 GW, the share of coal fired generation capacity is 83% (77 GW), about 16% natural gas, and remaining oil .
Thermal power plants are a key contributor to the local and global air pollutant emissions in India. In the wake of recent economic growth in the country and reforms in the power sector, coal-fired power generation is expected to experience a significant growth in the near term. Current Indian coal-fired power plant population is dominated by sub-critical pulverized coal-fired plants, using indigenous high-ash coal. The choice of technology to meet future growth in demand, air pollution control regulation, and adoption of technology will have a significant impact on emissions of criteria and GHG emissions from the power generation sector in India.
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