Unveiling a grand plan to ease the ongoing power shortages resulting from inadequate coal stocks, the government on Sunday announced that it would double India’s coal production on a war footing to one billion tonnes over the next four years.
“The government endeavours to ensure adequate coal for power plants... Coal India Ltd (CIL) has committed to an ambitious target of one billion tonnes of coal production by 2019 from the current levels of 500 million tonnes,” minister for power, coal and renewable energy Piyush Goyal said here.
Large parts of India are in the grips of long power outages, especially in the north and west, as several power plants have little coal left. In addition, a deficient monsoon has drastically reduced hydro power generation, increasing the burden on thermal power plants.
“There is a power crisis due to limited increase in coal production,” Goyal said, attributing the crisis to improper planning by the previous Congress-led UPA government.
In the four years from 2010, the previous government had expanded coal-based power generation capacity by 73% (from 84,198 mw to 1.45 lakh mw), Goyal said. However, coal production had been augmented by only 6.1% (from 532 million tonnes a year to 565 million tonnes).
Out of the total domestic coal production of 565 million tonnes, CIL produces around 500 million tonnes. This will be doubled to one billion tonnes a year by 2019. CIL will invest Rs 5,000 crore to buy 250 rakes for transporting coal.
The minister claimed his government has “averted a potential catastrophe” and saved the entire nation from a far bigger power crisis with a 21% increase in coal-based power generation during June to August 2014.
“If coal based electricity was at routine levels, especially given under-performance of hydro due to deficient monsoons this season, the entire nation would have been reeling under a power crisis... such a situation would have been disastrous,” Goyal said. He said this additional power output had brought coal stocks further
down at thermal plants that produced more.
He said once the Supreme Court’s decision on illegal coal mine allocation comes, the government will ensure quick action to get the process rolling.
The Supreme Court had recently ruled that all coal blocks allotted since 1993 by various regimes at the Centre have been illegal and arbitrary, bringing uncertainty to the fate of 218 block allocations and consequent investments to the tune of around Rs 2 lakh crore.
Presently, 28 thermal power plants in the country have coal stocks for less than four days. Around 56 plants have stocks for less than seven days.