NEW DELHI: The ongoing coal shortage in the country is not just impacting the thermal power plants but other sectors such as steel and aluminum too. According to industry sources, the dip in coal production over the last few years has led the country’s GDP to decline by almost 1% and has caused millions of jobs losses. “Though the global factors have added to the recent crisis, the government is also responsible for the shortage of coal in the country,” said a top official from the steel industry.
The metal industry has questioned the monopoly of Coal India Limited (CIL), which supplies 80% of India’s coal needs. They claim that the demand for coal in India is nearly a billion tonnes a year, and the supply is below 800 million tonnes. Therefore, the industry is of the view that India will import around 300 million tonnes of coal this year because of the shortage. In the pre-covid era India was importing around 220 million tonnes of coal.
“Consider the CIL performance in the last few years: Its output was 606 MT in 2018-2019, 602 MT in 2019-2020, and 596 MT in 2020-2021. Contrast this with various governments’ efforts to ramp up Coal production in the 1992-2010,” said the official. India is facing a power crisis due to coal shortage at its thermal power plants. The coal shortage has raised a lot of concern amongst various stakeholders including government bodies, thermal power plants, metal and mining industry industries and investors.
However, the government claims there is no shortage of coal as such and said it had raised coal production in the country. According to the coal ministry, the current total coal production increased by 29% to 66.58 Million Ton (MT) from 51.62 MT in April 2022 as compared to April, 2021.
“Of course, there is a shortage of coal in the country; otherwise the government would not have taken so many steps. They have mandated all imported coal-based plant to operate and generate power to their full capacity. Also, directed gencos based on domestic coal will have to import at least 10% of their fuel requirement. These things showcase the country is facing an immense coal crisis,” said Shailendra Dubey, chairman of All India Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF).
The industries, which are dependent on coal, also alleged that the government is diverting coal meant for industry to the power sectors. “The power sector is the priority, the steel sector is not the priority,” said an official from the steel industry.