24 June 2018, News Wires – The power ministry has advised all state governments and private power distribution companies (discoms) to import coal as Coal India was unable to meet the growing demand. To add to problems, there was also a shortage of rail rakes to evacuate coal. The advisory comes in the wake of states demanding more coal to run their thermal units in face of growing demand.
In Tamil Nadu, power demand shot up by 2383MW this summer. If Tangedco is to import five million tonnes of coal to meet the shortage, it would cost the state discom around $5,000, said officials.
Across the country, hydropower generation came down this summer because of low water level in reservoirs, mostly in the Himalayan states. It was after the NDA government took charge, the power ministry asked all government discoms to stop importing coal. Tamil Nadu alone was importing 5.5 crore tonnes to meet its demand in all thermal units.
“The power ministry, in coordination with the ministry of railway and ministry of coal, has been closely monitoring coal supply to thermal units. During 2017-18, we faced an acute shortage. Coal stock in power stations depleted to 7.26 million tonnes in October 2017,” said power ministry chief engineer Ghanshyam Prasad in a letter to all discoms.
The coal consumption during April 2018 increased by 3.9% compared to this year. “The hydro generation has also come down by 26% in April as compared to last year. In the coming months too, hydro generation will be less due to low storage level in reservoirs,” said Prasad.
“Importing coal has helped us not just in meeting the huge summer demand without interruption, but also to gradually build up buffer stock for nearly seven days of consumption,” said Tangedco chairman Vikram Kapur.
Tangedco started importing coal regularly from 2004-05. “It requires 26 million tonnes of coal for full capacity generation of North Chennai, Mettur, Ennore and Tuticorin thermal units. Of this, 20.445 million tonnes of coal is met by indigenous stock and the balance 5.50 million tonnes is being imported,” said a Tangedco coal wing official.
The imports started in 2004-05 at one million tonnes but as the demand for power increased and more thermal units were commissioned, the amount of coal imported also increased. In 2016, Coal India Limited requested Tamil Nadu government to advise Tangedco to stop imports and use indigenous coal available with CIL.
“Following this, the Union ministry of coal convened a meeting in New Delhi, where CIL, in principle, agreed to provide the additional five million tonnes to Tangedco, whenever it required the entire quantity,” said the official. “It is back to square one and we have started to import coal,” he said.