Government asks power companies to consider coal imports

On Friday evening, the government asked power companies to consider coal imports, citing extremely low fuel stocks in projects with a capacity of 90 GW. The increased demand for electricity combined with the decrease in hydro and wind power generation put pressure on coal-fired power plants.

The high price of imported coal, the limited availability of gas for power plants and heavy rains in the coal-producing regions have added to the woes. The extent of the small stock of coal to such a large electrical capacity is unprecedented.

Coal Secretary Anil Jain told ET that

has sufficient stocks. However, there are logistical challenges associated with shipping amid record demand for electricity. The company is increasing its supplies and the situation will improve in 10 to 15 days when the transportation issues are resolved.

Energy Secretary Alok Kumar said, according to an internal assessment, that there will be continued pressure on coal-fired power plants for the next 15 to 20 days with declining support for hydropower and wind power plants in a context of strong demand.

The country’s peak demand at around 190 GW

Power companies said Coal India was providing 225 rail rakes per day against the target of 280. Coal companies said power plants had cut production of imported coal due to high prices.

The country’s peak demand hovers around 190 GW while the average daily consumption is 4,150 million units. It has an installed production base of 390 GW, of which 209 GW is coal-based. Data available from the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) for August 24 showed that 82 GW was in maintenance, a total capacity of 52 GW was forced out.

The CEA communication on Friday evening asking power generation units to “inform (by email) the shortest possible time frame (days) within which imported coal can be purchased and supplied to the plant” prompted the ‘worry. “This can please be given TOP PRIORITY,” read the email.

Coal-fired power plants imported into the country are undergoing scheduled maintenance or forced shutdowns, as prices internationally have peaked at $ 70 per tonne. Dependent states such as Gujarat resort to expensive cash purchases, raising exchange prices up to Rs 20 per unit.

Kumar said the situation was monitored daily and there was no need to panic. The Department of Energy has asked 20 captive mines owned by utilities such as

, DVC and state power generation companies to increase production.

“Coal supplies are also likely to be moderate at power plants that have more than 14 days of inventory. We will provide more supply to people who have three days of inventory,” Kumar told ET.

“We also asked NTPC to increase gas-based production and CEA to explore importing coal, in case nothing works.”

An electricity industry official said Coal India was unable to supply crushed coal to power plants and deliver fuel to railroad sidings due to the rain. “The company is unable to charge,” he said.

A Coal India official said power generation from imported coal fell by nearly a quarter during the year.

India consumes 965 million tonnes (MT) of coal, of which 235 MT are imported. Of the imports, 80 MT are thermal coal for power plants. Since the prices of imported coal have skyrocketed, there has been unprecedented pressure on domestic coal, the official said. August and September are difficult months for mines, and the coal ministry had previously asked power plants to stock up on fuel.

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