India's thermal power giant, NTPC LtdBSE -1.43 %, is taking a giant leap in renewable energy although it believes that for the next 10 to 15 years coal will remain the country's primary source for generating electricity, Chairman and Managing Director Gurdeep Singh said. He said NTPC continues its legacy of being India's No.1power generation company even in the renewable energy space. 

The company is revising its corporate plan to add more wind and solar power projects to its portfolio. In an interview with ET, Singh also said the company plans to add 2,500-MW of conventional capacity and at least an equal amount of renewable plants every year. He also said NTPC was looking at acquisitions but no private plant was worth it. Edited excerpts: 

You are revising your corporate plan till 2032. Are you looking at more renewable energy based generation? 

We are in the process of revisiting our business plan, which is done every five years. Renewable has really taken a more important space in the last five years than what was earlier. And that will necessitate any energy company to relook at portfolio it will have in the long run. Going forward, we have to look how we can reduce our carbon footprint. But it cannot be one or the other, because at least in the next decade coal will remain the predominant energy source for India. 

But renewable energy is expected to become the cheapest source of energy by 2020. Are you prepared for that? 

Cheapest is a relative term. Where and how reliable it is, is the real question. The biggest challenge for renewable is how to integrate with the grid and how to ensure that you are having the sufficient power when required. For renewable, it is important that storage technology catches up and then only we will be able to see which is cheaper or which is costlier. We will have 10,000 MW of solar power by 2022 and another 15,000 MW we are going to buy from developers and sell it to discoms. We are looking at 1,000 MW of wind power. A sizeable chunk is with us, I don't think there is any other company which is going to have that kind of portfolio. 

So you'll become India's biggest renewable producer? 

If we are there, we will have to retain our leadership position. If you see, who will be able to add 10,000 MW in the next five-six years. I believe that we will still be a leader in that space. 

Does this mean that you will invest more in renewable than in conventional in the years ahead? 

Not necessarily, as of now we are having 24,000 MW under construction. We will have a really good mix of both. We should be adding anything around 2,000-2,500 MW every year in addition to an equal amount, if not more in renewable. 

There are projections that for the next three years we do not need any power plant? Would you consider expansion at the same pace, or slow down thermal and push renewables? 

That is the projection but we will have to keep into consideration that some very old, inefficient plants will not be competitive so will have to be slowly phased out. Another factual situation this year in our case is, generation has risen by 7% as compared to last year. Partly, the credit should go to UDAY that discoms have started purchasing little more. I believe if UDAY is implemented in totality, it should go a long way to help the generators. 

Do you see cost of production increasing in the given stringent environmental, land acquisition norms? 

Yes, capital cost of the new plants is relatively higher because of the land acquisition cost. The environment norms could lead to an increase of upto Rs 1crore per megawatt in case of new plants. We will see that, how we can go for more brownfield expansion rather than going only for greenfield projects. Most of our plants have space where we can add new units and then we can decommission the old units. 

Will you also look at acquisition of distressed assets or companies?

Why not? But the question is that which kind of assets. We are looking at one of the state utility assets. I think banks should acquire private assets and we can pitch in after that. In the past year, there has been good exercise, most of the assets were evaluated and then the decision was taken not to proceed further. 

(This news story is from The Economic Times)