Plants low on power as coal supply takes a hit

Written by fe Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 29 2011, 07:58am hrs
The unavailability of railway rakes has hit coal supply to various power stations. In the thirteenth report of the committee on estimates for 2011-12, the coal ministry pointed out that it was not only production issues that have led to poor supply of coal to power utilities, but also transportation bottlenecks owing to unavailability of rakes.

Coal secretary Alok Perti was quoted in the report saying that the average growth in coal production is about 5% whereas growth in availability of railway wagons for coal movement has been a little more than 2% in last five years. This has resulted in accumulation of pithead stock for consecutive years and had been almost 70 million tonnes in the beginning of the current year inspite of demand supply gap, he said.

Rakes supply for the coal transportation has been one of the major issues between the railways and coal ministries. In the last year (2010-11), the target for coal supply to power stations was 335 million tonnes for which there was a need to have 185 railway rakes per day. However, the railways could supply only 156 rakes a day.

The ministries (railways and coal) hold annual meetings to address the issue. The matter is taken up even during the weekly meetings of inter-ministerial subgroup that has been constituted at the coal ministry by infrastructure constraints review committee under the chairmanship of secretary (co-ordination) Cabinet secretariat. But, it continues to be one of the major hurdles for coal supply.

The railway ministry official maintained that the railways were doing their best to meet the rakes requirement. The supply of rakes will be more significant as the coal demand grows.

The Central Electricity Authority (CEA) has estimated that the total requirement of power utilities during 2011-12 would be 455 million tonnes, of which CIL has to supply 347 million tonnes, SCCL 33 million tonnes and other captive mines were to supply around 22 million tonnes. To meet the gap between estimated requirement and indigenous availability, ministry of power has given a target of importing 35 mt of coal by power companies.