Successful delivery of our first coal-fired power plant flexibility course in Hyderabad, India

COVID-19 has caused delays and compromises in the delivery of conferences and workshops globally. And so, after over two years of the pandemic, it was incredibly exciting to finally deliver, face-to-face, the first of our twelve US Department of State-funded events in India this week, on 13-16 June.

The ICSC is involved in a significant USDOS-funded capacity-building project in Southeast Asia, as outlined on our outreach webpage. For the current part of the project, we are delivering training with the Coal-fired Power Plant Flexibility Training toolkit, which has been  produced by EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute, USA) in conjunction with NTPC (India’s largest power utility) under USAID funding. This interactive excel-based system has the potential to maximise coal plant performance and efficiency, reducing operation and maintenance issues, and avoiding the outages and plant damage that can arise when plants are asked to ramp up and down frequently. This is especially important in India and other regions where power plant flexibility is becoming critical to delivering dispatchable electricity to a challenged power grid. The ICSC has produced a free report to explain the importance of flexibility in Indian coal-fired power plants, including a summary of how the toolkit should be implemented.

Our first flexibility training workshop was held on 13-16 June in Hyderabad, hosted by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). The highly technical training programme was attended by teams from large utilities such as NTPC and Adani, as well as representatives from smaller organisations, such as Warora Energy and Maithon Power.

Following welcome addresses from Nisha Jayaram, of the CII (the host for this first event), and Nathan Halat, Foreign Service Officer for India, for the USDOS, I gave an overview of the current challenge for the coal sector in India. This was based on our recent reports focused on this area:

The classroom phase of the workshop ran for two days, with Stephen Storm of EPRI leading delegates through all the potential issues which can be associated with flexible plant operation. Stephen has over 30 years of experience in the coal combustion sector as well as significant responsibility for delivering plant flexibility resources on behalf of EPRI. Stephen held the attention of all the delegates as he expertly relayed the complete skill set required to use the Toolkit to both identify and deal with the risks to optimise plant performance. He responded to a significant number of questions from the audience, each of which emphasised the high interest of stakeholders in learning from this workshop to effectively deliver improved plant performance at power plants in the region.

On the third day, delegates returned to their units or plants to apply the flexibility toolkit in practice. The Toolkit is largely intuitive in terms of how to input data and comments. However, there are some fields which require expert understanding and qualitative input and so it is inevitable that some staff will require additional help to ensure they are using it correctly. Delegates were requested to spend the day working through the Toolkit to highlight any issues or areas of concern so that they could report back on Day 4. During this time, Stephen, the CII team, and I travelled to Ramagundam, one of NTPC’s flagship coal utility plants, to provide Toolkit training directly to utility staff on site. We expected to be talking to one or two people but news of the project had spread, and Stephen was able to provide a short lesson on the toolkit to over 40 NTPC staff at the Ramagundam plant.

On Thursday, we reconvened with workshop delegates online to allow them to report back on their experience with the Toolkit in practice at their plants and for Stephen to address any issues and answer questions. The engagement was high, as over 40 delegates logged in with queries and comments during the day.

At the end of the training course, delegates completed an assessment to confirm that they had acquired the important knowledge from the week and to provide feedback on the event.

And so, in one week alone, over 70 utility staff in India have received training with the EPRI Flexibility Toolkit, thanks to this USDOS project. Feedback from the event has been excellent. Utilities have informed us that they fully intend to apply the skills that they have learned and build the Toolkit into their normal plant operating practices.

As the first face-to-face workshop the ICSC has implemented in over two years, I am extremely proud of what the team have achieved and look forward to delivering a similarly successful workshop in New Delhi next week on 20-23 June. Attendance is already higher than expected but space is being made available for a few extra delegates – if you are keen to join us, please register as soon as possible here.