Tamil Nadu well placed for transition to green energy, may retire ageing coal plants.

With 15 GW of installed renewable energy, Tamil Nadu has created an enabling environment for 100 per cent sustainable energy transition.

A roundtable discussion organised by Poovulagin Nanbargal and Climate Trends on Tuesday highlighted that Tamil Nadu is well placed for clean energy transition with the state’s forward looking sector-wise energy transition policies and climate-oriented political thinking.

State Energy Principal Secretary DP Yadav emphasised the need for phasing out coal based energy by transitioning to renewables. “Tamil Nadu has to move towards a green energy transition by retiring old thermal plants and re-looking at the energy mix and by generating and absorbing more renewable energy,” he said.

Currently, Tamil Nadu contributes 16 per cent to India’s total installed grid capacity connected to renewables. Overall, the state has 42 per cent renewable energy installed capacity of its total energy mix.

While coal remains the primary source of energy with 53 per cent of total energy generation for Tamil Nadu, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) projections showed that a conservative estimate of 32 GW of renewable energy capacity could be added and it could absorb the entire incremental demand in the coming decade.

IEEFA’s Kashish Shah, present at the webinar, also noted that the state is prepared to retire 4.2 GW of coal capacity which is now more than 25 years old. Another report points out that state-run distribution utility TANGEDCO, which has been running financial losses due to the increased cost of power purchase, can save up to Rs 35,000 crores by retiring 3.1 GW of old coal power plants, freezing expenditure on 3.5 GW of coal plants at the early stages of construction and availing cheaper power to meet future demand.

Talking about the state's leadership role in green transition, Kashish Shah, an energy economist, said: “Tamil Nadu is a leader in wind energy by far and has a huge potential in wind repowering to modernise its older wind turbines. Tamil Nadu needs to take a lead on this and set an example for other states like Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra to follow in its footsteps.”

On working out the net zero emission strategy between states, Yadav suggested, “Since Tamil Nadu has a huge renewable potential, the excess power can be supplied to states like Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand which are nearer to coal resources and tie up with them to export the energy to meet their daytime demand through our renewable sources. This can be adopted at the pan India level within states and can lead to states working towards their net-zero carbon emission strategy.”

On analysing the cost-effectiveness of coal versus renewable energy, Yadav said that even if we discount the cost of storage to be cheaper, there is another clear case for renewables. “If we add the costs of health impacts and environmental hazards due to emissions from energy produced from fossil fuel sources, renewables will definitely be cheaper because we don’t calculate those costs while calculating the costs of the power, so coal-powered energy only seems to be cheaper.”

The state’s solar and electric vehicle policies have created an enabling environment, which needs to be strengthened. Convergence exists between the solar and EV policies on the promotion of solar-powered charging stations.

TRB Raaja, DMK MLA and member, State Planning Commission, Tamil Nadu said that EV will be the “biggest disruptor” given the number of e-vehicles that have doubled in just the last few months. It is driving the need for ramping of production and charging infrastructure from green energy which is solar-powered.

Regardless of whether India makes a formal net-zero announcement or not, states have aligned their climate goals to achieve net-zero. Gujarat, Maharashtra, Bihar and the Union territory of Ladakh are focusing on a sector-wise approach to achieve net-zero. State actions can contribute to achieving India's clean energy mission of 450 GW by 2030.

States like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka have already announced no new coal power plants and are transitioning towards clean energy to meet their electricity demands.