Ahead of summer and Lok Sabha polls, coal companies to increase output

The power ministry has directed all coal companies to boost production after a series of complaints from thermal power firms, and in anticipation of high demand during the summer and the upcoming election season.

In a recent joint review meeting of the ministries of power, coal and railways, the power ministry expressed concern over depleted coal stocks at power plants. The coal stock at power units stands at an average of 13 days, as of February 20. 

Following several complaints from power units, including privately owned, the power ministry stressed the need to improve dispatch of coal. Recently, the Association of Power Producers (APP) wrote to the ministry of coal complaining about a shortfall in the supply from the mines of South Eastern Coalfields Ltd (SECL).

APP claimed the three mines of SECL — Gevra, Kusmunda and Dipka — are loading less than one rake a day. The three mines forming the Korba cluster have been mining less coal, resulting in a 13 per cent year-on-year fall in SECL's output in December 2018. 

In the review meeting, SECL has committed to increasing its coal production by 100,000 tonne a day. “SECL also assured that a three-day stock would be built at Korba and Sipat at the earliest. It will also ensure three rakes a day instead of 1.5 rakes currently,” stated the minutes of the meeting, reviewed by Business Standard. SECL would also ensure 460,000 tonne of dispatch every day.

The other subsidiaries of Coal India, too, assured the meeting of boosting their production and increasing the daily rake loading by more than 30. Mahanadi Coalfields (MCL) said it would have a daily coal dispatch of 350,000 tonne. Western Coalfields (WCL) said there were two areas where 6 million tonne stock is lying and all the power plants linked to WCL mines would not face any shortage of the fuel.

During the last summer, the country’s peak power demand touched a record high of 170,000 MW. 

But, power units across the country faced coal shortage, with some of them having 1-day coal stock. 

The power ministry in an internal note last year had said the coal shortage hit the power generation and noted that the sector would need 615 million tonne coal and 288 railways rakes a day to meet the demand. It has envisaged a similar demand for this year.

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