Coal import restrictions causing Punjab power plant breakdown, says Vedanta

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July 12, 2021 6:00 AM

“One of the major reasons for such frequent breakdown is owing to import coal restrictions and to the challenge in getting import substitute coal from Indian coal mines,” Talwandi Sabo Power said.

Thirteen people were killed when police opened fire during a protest against environmental pollution allegedly caused by the plant.Thirteen people were killed when police opened fire during a protest against environmental pollution allegedly caused by the plant.

Restrictions on coal import imposed by the Centre has been cited by Vedanta as one of the major reasons for the frequent breakdown of its 1,980 mega-watt (MW) Talwandi Sabo power plant in Punjab. The Talwandi Sabo plant is the largest source of power in Punjab, and after two of its units totaling 1,320 MW broke down, the state government has imposed restrictions of the state’s industrial consumers, permitting them to draw only 50% of power capacity allocated to them between July 8 and July 18.

“One of the major reasons for such frequent breakdown is owing to import coal restrictions and to the challenge in getting import substitute coal from Indian coal mines,” Talwandi Sabo Power, the Vedanta subsidiary which runs the plant, said on Saturday. This has led to dependence on usage of domestic coal which has high ash content, which “results in frequent unit breakdowns,” the statement by the company noted, adding that “restoration of one of these is expected within 48 hours, while the other one might take a little longer”.

As FE reported earlier, the Union power ministry, in a letter to power producers written in April, 2020, had asked thermal power plants to reduce coal imports and requested power plants which blend high quality imported coal with domestic fuel to “make best efforts to replace their imports with domestic coal”. The Talwandi Sabo power plant had imported 894 thousand tonne of coal for blending in FY20, but has not imported any coal since the start of FY21. Across the country, coal imports for power production fell 34% annually to 45.5 million tonne in FY21, as plant utilisation levels remained low amid muted demand.

The first 660 MW unit at the plant broke down in March, and the company “has spent manifolds amounts” to ensure early delivery of the required component from China while the chairman of the Punjab State Power Corporation has assisted in getting early clearance from the customs, the company statement said. All the three units of the plant are expected to be operational by the end of this month. As on Saturday, the all-India electricity shortage was 19.2 million units (MU), of which 13.4 MU shortage was in Punjab. Power crisis in the state has turned more severe with the increase in demand from the agricultural sector and low water levels in its reservoirs amid prolonged dry spell.

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