The utilisation level of coal-based power plants touched an all-time low in April, with their average plant load factor (PLF) standing at 41.9%, down from 63.1% in April 2019, amid falling electricity usage during the lockdown.
PLF of private thermal power plants fell to 44% last month, nearly 14 percentage points lower than April 2019. The same for plants run by central government firms fell 22.6 percentage points year-on-year (y-o-y) to 49.9% in April. Average thermal PLF for NTPC plants was 54.9% in April, sharply declining from 75.9% recorded in the same month last year.
Among private power plants, the average PLF of Adani Power with 9,240 MW generation capacity dropped to 51.6% from 84.7% in April last year. The utilisation level of Tata Power’s 4,000 MW imported coal-based power plant in Mundra fell to 61.4%, down nearly 20 percentage points Y-o-Y. The PLF of Jindal Power’s 3,400 MW Tamnar unit fell to 22.6% from 35.2% in the same period last year. GMR Energy’s 1,870 MW thermal capacity recorded an average PLF of 51.2%, down from 83% in the year-ago period. Essar Power’s 1,200 MW Mahan plant’s PLF more than halved Y-o-Y to 28.2% in April.
Conventional power generating companies are undergoing additional pressure as pan-India electricity demand in April fell 22.6% year-on-year to 85.2 billion units owing to muted industrial and commercial activities. This is the lowest growth in electricity demand in the country in any month in recent years.
From available data, the lowest annual average thermal PLF was recorded at 52.4% in FY86. Care Ratings expects “decline in plant load factor (PLF) of thermal power plants to below 53% during FY21 on account of subdued demand from industrial and commercial segments and gradual ramp-up in economic activity post Covid-19 lockdown”. PLF of coal-based power plants already fell to 56.1% for FY20 compared to 60.3% for FY19.