Higher demand for electricity and lower generation of hydel power have led to reduced coal stocks at power plants, but the government would ensure that there is no loss in power generation due to coal shortage, coal minister Piyush Goyal said on Monday. “You can’t add new transportation capacity immediately (for coal supply) and the rail and coal ministries are working in close coordination to meet demand,” Goyal said, adding that time lines for time-bound execution have been set for 14 critical projects for evacuating coal.
Thermal power plants generated 96,580 million units (MU), 4% more than the programme set for May, and 5.2% higher than last year. On the other hand, hydel plants produced 10% lower power than planned, reflecting a 14% drop from the previous year, due to inadequate rainfall and snow melting at a slower pace. As per the latest data available, as many as 25 power plants across the country have coal stocks for less than seven days.
The Central Electricity Authority has not updated the daily fuel status data after May 31 on its website. According to sources, state-owned Aravalli Jhajjar power plant has less than half a day’s stock and the situation has not improved for over two weeks.
While enumerating the achievements of the coal ministry in the last four years, Goyal said annual potential savings through coal linkage rationalisation, which allows thermal power plants to transfer existing coal linkages to generation units nearer to mines, have been Rs 3,359 crore by shortening transportation distances for 55.7 MT of fuel.
The option to rationalise coal linkages was earlier available to central and state-owned power plants, but in May, the government allowed independent thermal power plants to avail of the option.
Goyal said Coal India has improved its loading rate from 195 rakes per day in FY15 to 230 rakes per day in FY18. Though domestic coal production at 688.4 MT in FY18 clocked an annual increase of 2.5%, imports, at 213 MT, grew by 8.1% because of sustained demand from the steel sector for coking coal and steady demand from the power and cement industries.
Analysts at CARE Ratings recently said “coal import trend is expected to continue as power, cement and steel industries are expected to witness improvement in demand and capacity utilisation”.