The utilisation factor of coal-based thermal power plants in India is consistently falling. The average national capacity utilisation factor, commonly known as plant load factor (PLF), has dwindled from 78.6% in 2007–08 to 56.01% in 2019–20. Several highly efficient and modern power plants are des- tined to run at very low PLFs. On top of this, 59,810 MW of new and advanced technology thermal power plants are in pipeline. These plants are also likely to experience dismally low capacity utilisation. All this is happening even when unmet power demand exists in the country and coal-based thermal power is still the mainstay of power generation. Falling PLF of the plants is therefore a matter of con- cern for all the stakeholders. It is important to know what future has in store for these plants. Partial least square (PLS) regression has been used for projection of PLF for the next five years and five likely scenarios have been created. Projections show that in the business as usual case (factors increasing at the current CAGR rate; Scenario I), the thermal power plants will face very low level of PLF (14.76%) by 2024–25. This leads to a grim situation. However, it was found that in one of the scenarios, that is, fuel mix and demand as per Central Electricity Authority’s (CEA) suggestions with phasing out of old plants, Scenario V, the average PLF can be sustained above 68% until 2024–25. If this path is followed, thermal plants will get a fresh lease of life, at least in the medium term. It will also give time to poli- cymakers and utilities to prudently plan the optimum generation mix in the country including thermal and renewable energy.
capacity utilisation, future outlook, generation mix, India, PLF, thermal power plants
 Central Electricity Authority (CEA), Growth of Electricity Sector in India from 1947– 2015 - www.cea.nic.in
 Central Electricity Authority (CEA), Annual Report – 2014–15 http://www.cea.nic.in/ reports/annual/annualreports/annual_report-2015.pdf
 Ministry of Power (MoP), Govt of India - http://powermin.nic.in/
 Ministry of Power (MoP), Working Group on Power – 12th Plan (2012–17), New Delhi, 2012.
 CEA Report- Growth of Electricity Sector in India from 1947–2017 http://www.cea. nic.in/reports/others/planning/pdm/growth_2017.pdf
 PTI, The Economics Times, Sept 16, 2020. https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes. com/news/power/total-capacity-of-under-construction-thermal-power-projects-at- 59810-mw/78138671
 Central Electricity Authority, National Electricity Plan 2018 (NEP), 2018. https://cea. nic.in/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/nep_jan_2018.pdf
 The Mint, India’s growth rate for 2019–20 revised downwards to 4 %, Jan. 29, 2021. https://www.livemint.com/news/india/gdp-growth-rate-for-2019-20-revised-down- wards-to-4-11611925568343.html
 Verma, A.K., Financial Express, April 20, 2020. https://www.financialexpress.com/ opinion/the-dilemma-of-power-demand/1933598/ Accessed 06.04.2020
 Central Electricity Regulatory Commission, CERC, Terms and Conditions of Tariff Regulations, 2019, No. L-1/236/2018/, p. 60, March 7, 2019. http://www.cercind.gov. in/2019/regulation/Tariff%20Regulations-2019.pdf
 Pandey, K., Lack of gas, high cost ‘stranded’ more than half of India’s gas-based power plants, Down to Earth, Jan. 17, 2019.
 Russell, C., Coal going from winner to loser in India’s energy future, Reuters, Feb 20, 2019. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-column-russell-coal-india/coal-going- from-winner-to-loser-in-indias-energy-future-russell-idUSKCN1Q90OP Accessed 06.09.2019
 Sharma, D. & Soltendieck, R., Biomass Energy in India, Embassy of Denmark in India. https://indien.um.dk/en/innovation/sector-updates/renewable-energy/biomass-energy- in-india
 Wang, P. & Li, M., Scenario analysis in the electric power industry under the implemen- tation of the electricity market reform and a carbon policy in China. Energies, 12(11), 2152, 2019. http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/en12112152
 Wang, Y. & Chen, J., The environmental effect of capacity utilization in thermal power plants: Evidence from interprovincial carbon emissions in China. Environmental Sci- ence and Pollution Research International, 26(29), pp. 30399–30412, 2019. http:// dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11356-019-06251-2
 Smith, R.K., Analysis of hourly generation patterns at large coal-fired units and impli- cations of transitioning from baseload to load-following electricity supplier. Journal of Modern Power Systems and Clean Energy, 7(3), pp. 468–474, 2019. http://dx.doi. org/10.1007/s40565-018-0470-9
 Central Electricity Authority, (CEA), Draft National Electricity Plan, Volume I, Dec. 2016. http://www.cea.nic.in/reports/committee/nep/nep_dec.pdf
 CEA, Draft report on optimal generation capacity mix for 2029–30, Feb. 2019. https:// img.saurenergy.com/2019/07/optimal_generation_mix_report-by-cea.pdf
 Sengupta, D., Thermal power plants’ capacity utilization (PLF) to drop to 48% by 2022, The Economic Times, Dec. 20, 2016.