PMO draws up plan to ensure supply of coal to power plants

Updated on Oct 13, 2021 06:20 AM IST

In a letter to all state governments and distribution companies (discoms), the Union ministry of power requested all states and UTs to utilise unallocated power of the central generating stations (CGS) to meet the requirement of their own consumers only.

International prices of coal have surged, increasing the demand for local coal.(AP file photo. Representative image)
International prices of coal have surged, increasing the demand for local coal.(AP file photo. Representative image)
ByUtpal Bhaskar, Livemint, New Delhi

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has drawn up a plan to ensure uninterrupted fuel supplies to power plants even as the Union power ministry issued a directive that unallocated electricity supply will be snapped to states selling power on exchanges at higher rates instead of supplying to their customers.

Two government officials familiar with the matter said that the plan — discussed in a meeting on Tuesday held by PK Mishra, principal secretary to the Prime Minister, and attended by coal secretary Anil Kumar Jain, power secretary Alok Kumar, and railway board chairman Suneet Sharma — involves the state-run Coal India Ltd (CIL) supplying an additional 200,000 tonne of coal on a daily basis to ramp up the fossil fuel supplies to 2.1 million tonne per day.

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It was also decided to facilitate operationalising the imported coal fuelled power generation capacity of 17.06 gigawatt (GW) to help ease the pressure on domestic coal fuelled power projects, they added.

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 amid concerns by some states that depleted coal stocks at power plants may lead to blackouts. The power ministry on Sunday said “any fear of disruption in power supply is entirely misplaced”.

Officials said that Indian Railways will provide the additional rakes for the transportation of coal. Mint reported on Tuesday that extra supply will be ensured by Coal India Ltd (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 on condition of anonymity.

Queries emailed to the spokespersons of the PMO and ministries of power, coal and railway on late Tuesday night remained unanswered till press time.

Also Read| As concerns rise over coal shortage, Centre reassures with ‘fact-check’

In a letter to all state governments and distribution companies (discoms), the Union ministry of power requested all states and UTs to utilise unallocated power of the central generating stations (CGS) to meet the requirement of their own consumers only. In case of excess power, it asked the states to inform the ministry, so that the electricity can be diverted to needy states. “It has been observed that some states are not supplying power to their consumers and imposing load shedding in some areas. At the same time, they are also selling power in the power exchange at a high price,” read the letter signed by deputy secretary, GoI, Devashis Bose, without naming any state.

While CIL’s annual production target is 670 mt for the current fiscal, the coal offtake is expected to be 740 mt. The miner started the year with a 99 mt stock, and the current coal stock available for supply at CIL mines is 40 mt.

There are a number of reasons for the current situation. International prices of coal have surged, increasing the demand for local coal. Power demand, and therefore the derived demand for coal, has increased sharply in the past couple of months, perhaps a reflection of pent-up demand on account of the disruption from the second wave of the pandemic in April-May and a surge in activity ahead of the festival season. Heavy rainfall, especially in the coal-producing regions of Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal in September, added to the problems. This also comes at a time of China facing crippling power shortages.

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