PMO draws up plan to ensure coal supply to power plants

By Utpal Bhaskar
According to the Central Electricity Authority (CEA), India’s 119 coal fuelled power projects had four days of stocks as of Monday. (Bloomber g)

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has drawn up a plan to ensure uninterrupted fuel supplies to power plants, involving state-run Coal India Ltd (CIL) delivering an additional 200,000 tonnes of coal every day.

According to the plans, total fossil fuel supplies will be ramped up to 2.1 million tonnes (mt) per day, according to two government officials aware of the deliberations, seeking anonymity.

At a meeting called by P.K. Mishra, principal secretary to the Prime Minister on Tuesday afternoon, and attended by coal secretary Anil Kumar Jain, power secretary Alok Kumar and railway board chairman Suneet Sharma, it was also decided to facilitate operationalising imported coal-fuelled power generation capacity of 17.06 gigawatt (GW), which are located along the coastal regions, to help ease the pressure on domestic coal-fuelled power projects. The union power ministry also issued a directive to snap unallocated electricity supply to those states that are not supplying power to their customers and instead selling it on power exchanges at a higher rate. The freed-up power will then be given to other needy states.

The meeting at the PMO followed home minister Amit Shah’s meeting with coal minister Pralhad Joshi and power minister Raj Kumar Singh on Monday that was held amid concerns that depleted coal stocks at power plants may lead to blackouts. Indian Railways will provide additional rakes for the transportation of coal.

Mint reported on Tuesday that extra supply will be ensured by CIL. India has the world’s fourth largest reserves and is the second-largest producer of coal.

“An additional 60 railway rakes carrying coal will be supplied by CIL that will increase supplies by an additional 2 lakh tonnes of coal. The total coal supply at thermal power plants was 1.9 mt on Monday and, with this additional supply, it will go up to 2.1 mt. This quantum is expected to be reached by 20 October. With the supplies being increased, the coal depletion at the plants has stopped and will help towards building up stocks," said one of the two government officials cited above.

While CIL’s annual production target is 670 mt for the current fiscal year, coal off-take is expected to be 740 mt. The miner started the year with a 99 mt fossil fuel stock. The current coal stock available for supply at CIL mines is 40 mt. According to the Central Electricity Authority (CEA), India’s 119 coal fuelled power projects had four days of stocks as of Monday. Besides, 16 plants located near coal mines totalling 35.2 GW capacity have five days of fuel stocks. This assumes importance given that coal-fuelled capacity accounts for 52.41% or 202.80 GW of India’s installed power generation capacity of 386.88 GW.

As part of the plan to meet electricity demand, imported coal fuelled capacity is being brought online, with the government issuing guidelines on 8 October for “optimum utilization". According to CIL, the primary reason for the sharp depletion of fuel stocks at power plants has been the ramping down of generation by 14 imported coal-fuelled power projects due to the spike in global coal prices.

This resulted in electricity demand to be serviced from domestic coal-fuelled power projects, leading to an unplanned need for 10 mt of coal from CIL. “The imported coal-based plants that have a 17.06 GW capacity will start operating by sourcing coal from overseas. This will help relieve pressure on plants that burn domestic coal to generate electricity. However, there will be a lag depending on the time taken for coal shipments to reach the plants.

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