Shortage of coal caused power generation loss in 2017-18, acknowledges govt

Acknowledging that coal shortage hit power generation in the current year, and that coal supply still was a sore point, the power ministry has said that the sector would need 615 million tonnes of coal supply in the coming financial year. This would also entail an increased demand of railway rakes of 288 per day to meet the demand.

In an inter-departmental meeting of power, coal, railways, along with NTPC and Coal India, held in January, Power Minister R K Singh said efforts should be made to ensure that there was no shortage of coal during the next monsoon season.

“The coal supply situation is still critical, as there are 10 power stations with zero coal and around 55 power plants have coal stock of less than 7 days. Coal companies and the railways should improve coal supply to power stations so that they have sufficient coal stock to meet their requirements and build up their stock to normative level, and there is no shortage of coal during the next monsoon season i.e. June to September 2018,” Singh was quotes as having said in the minutes to the meeting held in January. The minutes were reviewed by Business Standard.

To meet the same and speed up the operations, Coal India would now look at the loading rakes beyond stipulated time and aim for round the clock operations. “CIL assured to load a rake within 5 hours as per existing free loading time from the sidings with loading facility of fewer than 4 rakes/day. It will load a rake within 3 hours from the sidings with more than 4 rakes/day capacity,” said the minutes.

The minutes also quoted power ministry officials citing coal supply was below normative levels in 2017. “During the current year, there has been a loss of generation due to a shortage of coal. The supply of coal during the current year was reviewed and it has been seen that the supply of coal from CIL has improved to 217 rakes per day during November-December. However, there has been a dip during January 2018,” said an official.

Coal deficit started in September 2017 touching a low of six days of average coal availability with power units in October 2017.

Close to 11,000 Mw of units were under forced outage due to low coal stocks. In December, it improved slightly to 10 days and now stands at 12 days.

In the meeting, officials said the coal stock available at 113 numbers of power plants monitored on daily basis by CEA is about 14 million tonnes against the normative requirement of about 30 million tonnes. It was noted that against a loading plan of 274 rakes, the average supply of rake by CIL was about 259 rakes per day during January, said, officials.

Based on growth in electricity demand, it was estimated that requirement of domestic coal during 2018-19 would be about 615 MT. Therefore, rakes required per day from CIL to meet this requirement would be about 288 rakes per day.

In response to the demand put by the power ministry, a representative from the ministry of railways, Member (Traffic) said they would put in all efforts to enhance the number of rakes. “But power plants should also be impressed upon for taking coal to build up their coal stock to the normative level so that Railway rakes should not remain idle and their investment in the production of rakes should not become waste,” he said.

In earlier public statements, secretary, the ministry of coal had also expressed the concern that power plants weren’t stocking coal at their units. Singh thereby mandated all the stakeholders to frame a conducive policy for coal supply which should cover, coal supply, rakes availability and allotment, payment to Coal India etc.

Recently, Central Electricity Authority (CEA) overhauled the methodology and formula to calculate the availability of coal stock and normative levels to declare a unit with critical coal situation. CEA aims to streamline the data for demand and performance of state utilities and power plants along with coal and railway rake availability, this paper reported.