Power sector woes: Solution lies in enhancing capacities by Rlys, CIL

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 20 Jun 2018 12:21:20


By G N Karalay

Electric power is a backbone of economic progress. In India, thermal power constitutes 65 per cent of total power and bulk of thermal power is based on coal as fuel. Thermal stations are supposed to keep normally 14 days and during rainy season 21 days of stock to take care of disruption of coal supply due to rains. But presently most of the power stations are having less than 5-7 days stock.
As it is, coal shortage is experienced by the power producers since last 10 months but due to increasing power demand, it is now felt more severely. There are three thermal power generating entities namely Central/State-owned generating companies, independent power producers and captive power producers.

Due to paucity in capacity in providing coal to all entities, Central Government has asked priority allotment to Central/State-owned power generating companies. This decision has not gone down well with private companies. Quite a number of states, finding long-term uncertainty in supply of indigenous coal, have started action for importing coal. But except in the case of thermal power stations located near seashore, movement of imported coal will again involve rail transportation.Coal India Limited (CIL) claims that they have adequate amount of coal but the flow of coal is hampered because railways are unable to place adequate number of wagons for transportation.
The real story as to who is at fault gets unfolded when it is seen in the context of Maharashtra State wherein power generating companies are the worst hit.

The present coal stock position in major power stations is: Parli- one day, Nashik- two days, Paras and Khaparkheda- three days, Bhusawal and Koradi- five days, and Chandrapur- six days. According to Central Electricity Authority of India (CEA), coal stock less than seven days is termed as critical. As a result of coal shortage, there is heavy load shedding especially in rural area. In response to PIL, Western Coalfields Limited told Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court that railways were not providing required number of empty rakes to it for coal loading. On the other hand, Central Railway and South Eastern Central Railway (SECR) have obliquely blamed Western Coalfields Limited for coal shortage at Mahagenco plants saying that though they placed required number of wagons as per contract, WCL did not lift these within stipulated time.

In reality, countrywide there is a serious problem with both railways as well as coal supplier. The problem of coal shortage has become perennial due to mismatch between power generation capacity, capacity of Coal India to produce required quantity of coal and railways’ capacity to handle its transportation. These constraints are severely affecting financial condition of power producers. The issues involved have now become so critical and intractable that these can be addressed only by taking decisions jointly by Prime Minister Officer (PMO) and Ministers of Power, Coal and Railways, and implementation of those decisions in time bound manner.

In the long run, taking into account long-term infrastructure constraints, India has to steadfastly move from heavy dependence on thermal power to renewable energy sources for power generation. This seems to a permanent solution.(The author is former Executive Director of NTPC and Senior Consultant at Power Finance Corporation)