Railways, Coal, Power officials team up to mitigate Coal Shortage faced by Thermal power plants

Captive power plants are running plants with reduced power generation rendering operations economically nonviable with huge risk of plant closure!

NEW DELHI: The ‘supply constraint’ has become a common talking point among industries dependent on coal. The worst affected are thermal power plants, which are facing severe coal shortage and are running at less than half-a-day’s stocks.

The Indian Captive Power Producers Association (ICCPA) has written to Coal India Chairman Gopal Singh stating that with severe coal shortage, captive power plants (CPP) face the risk of closure. “CPP-based industries are getting 15 per cent to 50 per cent coal against secured linkages and Annual Contracted Quantity (ACQ).”

Thermal power steps in

An official from the Ministry of Coal told that the fuel requirement of thermal power plants has suddenly increased due to a reduction in hydro, nuclear, and wind power generation.

During September, nuclear power generation was 25 per cent lower than the planned generation at 2,671.45 MW. According to the Central Electricity Authority (CEA), nuclear energy was to generate 3,548 MW of power.

Hydro-power generation, too, was 17.16 per cent lower than projections in September, according to the CEA. So the demand shifted to thermal, which stood at 99.49 per cent of the planned generation during the month.

The plant load factor — capacity utilisation at power plants — of thermal units during September stood at 60.54 per cent, higher than the 58.81 per cent planned for the month. The dip in nuclear power generation was also reflected in the PLFs. The actual PLF stood at 54.72 per cent, against the planned PLF of 73.77 per cent.

To counter the supply constraint faced by the industry, a coal augmentation plan was formulated in consultation with States and a decision made to supply additional stocks to Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and the CIL pitheads, the ministry official said.

Standard practice

Whenever power plants face acute dwindling of coal stock, efforts are being made to supply as much coal as possible to them, the official said, adding that: “We have prepared a special accelerated supply plan for these States.” Also, to ease the supply disruptions, Member (Traffic) Railway Board, Secretaries of Power and Coal meet every week to monitor the situation.

In addition, joint secretary-level officers meet twice every week. These three ministries have been working in coordination to meet the supply constraints, another official said.

The Coal Secretary has also written to States urging State generation companies to build up coal stock at thermal power plants. CEA norms stipulate that coal stock for 20-30 days has to be maintained by non-pithead plants and for 15 days by pithead plants, he added.

ICPPA has said that more than 800 rakes are pending for coal materialisation for CPP-based industries affecting production.

The association has also said that port-based/coastal power plants to should be fed on imported coal to make domestic fuel available for inland power plants, thereby increasing rakes availability and de-congestion of Railway network.

Aluminium’s woes

Another industry crying foul is aluminium. In a letter to the Prime Minister’s office, the Aluminium Association of India said investments of ₹1.2-lakh crore in the sector are at a critical situation. These investments are holding a debt of ₹70,000 crore, the letter added.