The Central government’s big push to improve the power situation in the country has started showing results, with major thermal power plants recording an average coal stock for 24 days this week. The situation is considered “critical” when a power station has less than five days’ stock. According to Central Electricity Authority (CEA) data, as on 12 January, 101 major thermal power plants, with a total capacity of 120,143 MW, have 32,248,000 (32.24 million) tonne of coal stock. This is a major improvement in the fuel supply position. Only one power plant reported a “critical stock” (of less than five days), while no plant reported a “super critical stock” of less than three days. Experts say that if this trend remains consistent, the summer months will be relatively comfortable for the people. This situation is in sharp contrast to the coal supply position last year. On 12 January 2015, the thermal power plants reported an average coal stock of only 10 days. As per CEA data, as many as 32 power plants had critical coal stock, while 17 had a super critical stock.
This week, the only plant with a critical stock was Vallur thermal power plant in Tamil Nadu. In Delhi, while the Rajghat power plant has a stock of 12 days, the Badarpur plant has 46 days’ stock. The situation is better in the northern region, with power plants in states such as Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab having an average stock of 30 days, followed by the southern region with 25 days, western region with 22 days and the eastern region with 17 days.
Push from the Ministry of Coal has made state-run Coal India Limited (CIL) increase production by 8.8%, to 321.38 MT, in the period of April-November 2015, compared to the same period in 2014. CIL has set an ambitious production target of 1 billion tonne by 2020.
According to a coal company official, the improvement in the coal sector is because of the opening of mines, whose allocations were cancelled by the Supreme Court. He said now coal auctions are being conducted in an efficient and transparent manner. However, a former CMD of a CIL subsidiary said on the condition of anonymity: “Although the power plants are reporting a sufficient coal stock, domestic production is still a big challenge. A bulk of coal is being imported. So we have to be cautious. In order to make the positive trend consistent, the government will have to increase domestic production much more.” The ex-CMD said that the country could not depend wholly on imported coal. “Though the prices of imported coal have come down, its landed price has increased in many places like Tamil Nadu and Punjab. This may have an adverse impact in the long run. Coal production needs to start at the earliest at mines that were de-allocated following the Supreme Court order.”