Power plant maintenance not keeping pace with demand surge

By: |
July 16, 2021 1:30 AM

In the ongoing fiscal, maintenance outages are scheduled for 51,990 MW of power generating units. The upkeep of power plants become more critical with power demand surging to record levels, surpassing 2,00,000 MW in the recent past.

The load generation balance report (LGBR) 2020-21 published by the Central Electricity Authority had pointed that “some of the planned outages of the generating units as per maintenance schedule of 2020-21 have not been undertaken by the utilities for the months of April and May, 2020 due to pan India lockdown in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic”.The load generation balance report (LGBR) 2020-21 published by the Central Electricity Authority had pointed that “some of the planned outages of the generating units as per maintenance schedule of 2020-21 have not been undertaken by the utilities for the months of April and May, 2020 due to pan India lockdown in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic”.

Many large power plants in the country are running behind their maintenance schedules as they were facing manpower shortages in FY21 due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The requirement for continuous power supply in the critical lockdown periods also did not allow many of the plants to go offline to undertake maintenance activities. According to data collected by the industry, only 30,400 mega-watt (MW) of thermal power plants executed planned maintenance activities in FY21, compared to 1,06,022 MW in FY20.

In the ongoing fiscal, maintenance outages are scheduled for 51,990 MW of power generating units. The upkeep of power plants become more critical with power demand surging to record levels, surpassing 2,00,000 MW in the recent past.

The load generation balance report (LGBR) 2020-21 published by the Central Electricity Authority had pointed that “some of the planned outages of the generating units as per maintenance schedule of 2020-21 have not been undertaken by the utilities for the months of April and May, 2020 due to pan India lockdown in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic”.

As per the LGBR, cumulative capacity of more than 2,43,000 MW were supposed to undergo maintenance in FY21 (the total capacity of thermal power plants in the country is 2,34,000 MW but the higher cumulative capacity scheduled for maintenance denotes that many units were expected to undergo maintenance outages more than once across the fiscal).

To be sure, capacities that actually undergo maintenance are always lower than what was initially scheduled for a particular fiscal. For example, as per the LGBR for FY18, maintenance was planned for for 1,41,981 MW, but actual maintenance was done on 60,640 MW capacity in that fiscal. “For some power plants, it is already past 21 months since the last maintenance was undertaken, and several units had to undergo forced outages due to high turbine vibrations, turbine blade failures, high furnace pressure and ash evacuation issues,” an official from a power company said.

Planned maintenance includes inspection, servicing and renovation of boiler, turbine generator, and other activities like performance guarantee test of new units and residual life assessment studies on old units. Queries sent to the Union power ministry on this matter have not been responded to. The issue was raised in a recent meeting of a regional power committee held on June 22. “Annual maintenance of the thermal plants which are long due and could not be undertaken due to severe Covid-19 situation may be carried out during the monsoon season to the extent possible,” the minutes of the meeting, reviewed by FE, said.

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