BHUBANESWAR: Even as power plants are battling a severe fuel crisis with fuel stocks of nearly a quarter of the country’s coal-based plants at low levels, the Coal Ministry reiterated surplus availability of coal.
However, adding to the woes of private players, the government has directed Coal India Ltd (CIL) to make ‘out-of-turn’ allotment of scarce coal to Central and state electricity generation companies. It has also assured the private players on the availability of coal supply as CIL will meet the contractual obligations.
In a letter to Coal India, the Coal Ministry said there may be an increased demand for coal due to a surge in demand during peak summer. “In order to avoid possible shortage of coal at thermal power plants, it has been decided that wherever it is operationally feasible based on various factors like coal stock availability, and where suitable transport arrangements are in place, out-of-turn coal allotment may be made to state and Central PSU (electricity) generation companies (Gencos) to meet the surged coal requirement for power generation,” the ministry’s letter said.
According to the ministry, the government-run power generating plants are being offered coal over and above the committed quantities to let them meet the high levels of power demand.
“The phrase out-of-turn coal allotment means that state power generating companies can take coal above the annual contracted quantity,” said coal ministry joint secretary Rajesh Kumar Sinha, adding nobody will be preferred over others.
According to industry experts, coal shortage looms in India as demand for electricity is expected to hit record peaks during summer months. Under this circumstance, coal allocation is under threat as CIL has been failing to meet its production target. However, the new full-time chairman of CIL, Anil Kumar Jha, said that the constraint is in logistics and not production.
“As of today, there is 45 million tonnes of stock with CIL, but due to severe logistics, where there is coal, there is no rail network. So, until and unless that coal is transported to the power plant, having coal has got no meaning,” Jha said.
“We have to ensure that power plants have stocks for at least 22 days. So, even if there is a delay of a day or two, it isn’t critical,” he said. Currently, the power plants have been able to stock coal for just ten days.