By Manish Gupta
The coal stock at the thermal power stations stood at about 35 million tonne (MT) on Sunday, 64% higher than previous year, coal secretary Amrit Lal Meena said on Tuesday.
This allays the fears that coal stocks might fall to precarious levels like last year, leading to power outages in many parts of the country, as the summer peaks.
Even the pithead stocks with Coal India (CIL) was 13.6% higher at 65.65 MT on April 23, up from 57.8 MT last year. “Overall stock, comprising of the stocks at coal mine end, thermal power plant end and in transit, is 117.46 MT, which is 37% higher than the corresponding stock of 85.73 MT on April 23, 2022,” Meena told FE in an interview.
The stocks came down by only 6.46 MT since the start of April when it was 123.92 MT probably due to a cooler April.
Last year, coal stocks at many thermal stations fell to below critical levels during this time, forcing the power ministry to issue directions to state-run power companies and state governments to scale up coal imports on a war footing. Fuel stocks at more than 100 thermal power plants in India had fallen below 25% of the normative requirement, or critical level, with the stocks in half of these plants plunging to below the 10% mark.
Peak power demand had shot up to an all-time high of 216 GW on April 18 as temperatures rose after a cool start in the month, but dropped to 192 GW on April 24 as the temperatures once again moderated below expectation.
The three ministries of coal, power and railways have been working in close coordination since before the onset of summer to ensure adequate supply of coal to thermal power plants, he said, adding that additional logistic support is provided wherever there is increased requirement of coal.
Meena said that the government expects coal production to grow at 11-12% for the next few years. The coal production target for FY24 is set at 1,012 MT, 11% higher than the previous year target of 911 MT, of which 892 MT was achieved.
“Coal India achieved its target after a gap of 17 years. It had a target of 700 MT and it achieved a production of 703 MT last fiscal. The current year target for Coal India has been set at 780 MT, 11.42% higher than the previous target.”
He further stated that the country aims to substitute 90-100 MT of imported coal. Of the total 220-230 MT of annual coal imports, 120-130 MT are of those grades that are not available in India and hence will continue to be imported.
“However, 90-100 MT of coal are of those grade which we also produce in the country. Basically these are thermal coking coals. And, this can be substituted as the gap of 90-100 MT is not a production gap but an availability gap due to logistics constraints for evacuation of coal,” Meena said.
The ministry of power has advised the gencos to import coal for blending purposes. Some of the states, too, are importing coal. This is for ensuring that thermal power generating capacity is put to extended use.