Weather gives a breather to power sec­tor

With lower de­mand, coal stock sit­u­a­tion at power plants likely to im­prove

Business Standard - - FRONT PAGE - SHINE JA­COB & SHREYA JAI write

Cool, pleas­ant weather has given a nearly one-month win­dow to the gov­ern­ment to ad­dress the prob­lem of coal short­age at ther­mal power plants, as elec­tric­ity de­mand is likely to re­main lower in the next few weeks.

Cool, pleas­ant weather has given nearly one-month win­dow to the gov­ern­ment to ad­dress the prob­lem of coal short­age at ther­mal power plants across the coun­try, as elec­tric­ity de­mand is likely to re­main lower in the next few weeks.

The min­istries of coal, power, and rail­ways plan to aug­ment coal sup­ply to gear up for high de­mand later next month, when cold in the north­ern re­gion will start peak­ing. How­ever, the al­lot­ment of rakes is still a sore point among power and non-power cus­tomers of the rail­ways.

“This month should give us a buf­fer to pre­pare our­selves. The three min­istries are in reg­u­lar dis­cus­sions to pre­pare a plan for ro­bust coal sup­ply to the power sec­tor when de­mand in­creases from De­cem­ber on­wards,” said a se­nior of­fi­cial of the power min­istry.

Ac­cord­ing to the Cen­tral Elec­tric­ity Author­ity (CEA) data, the av­er­age num­ber of days of coal stock left at power units was six as of Novem­ber 9.

Power de­mand in win­ter months peaks due to the re­quire­ment for heat­ing and agri­cul­tural pur­poses.

At the same time, rail­way of­fi­cials said coal de­mand from the power sec­tor had con­sid­er­ably de­clined over the past two months. “While the de­mand sud­denly in­creased by 18 per cent in Au­gust, it grad­u­ally de­clined by 2.9 per cent and even fur­ther in Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber,” an of­fi­cial said.

Of the to­tal 1,050 rakes, around 400 go to the coal sec­tor, and the rest are shared by sec­tors like iron ore, ce­ment, and fer­tilis­ers. How­ever, there is still dis­cord be­tween the power and rail­ways min­istries over the num­ber of rakes be­ing al­lo­cated to power units. While the rail­ways main­tained that it was giv­ing enough rakes to the power sec­tor, a power min­istry of­fi­cial said their de­mand was not be­ing met.

Ac­cord­ing to the rail­way min­istry, the num­ber of rakes for Coal In­dia (CIL) im­proved to 235 a day in Novem­ber, as against 223 in Oc­to­ber and 213 in Septem­ber. “We are giv­ing high pri­or­ity to the power sec­tor. Ac­cord­ing to the con­tract, we are sup­posed to give 217 rakes a day to the power sec­tor, and that is be­ing main­tained,” said a rail­way of­fi­cial.

Of­fi­cials in the power min­istry said power units were re­ceiv­ing 210 rakes, adding that coal sup­ply was not enough to build stocks at these units. “Most of the power units are func­tion­ing on day-by-day sup­ply. There is not enough sup­ply to build or main­tain a stock for more than one to three days,” said an of­fi­cial who wished not to be iden­ti­fied.

Mean­while, other sec­tors such as steel, ce­ment, and cap­tive power pro­duc­ers have com­plained of rake di­ver­sion to power units from their share. Rail­way of­fi­cials, how­ever, said the re­duc­tion in coal sup­ply to other in­dus­tries was mainly to do with CIL’s ca­pa­bil­ity to im­prove to­tal load­ing. Of the 235 rakes a day that the rail­way was pro­vid­ing, it was upon CIL to pri­ori­tise the con­sumers, they said.

Ac­cord­ing to the ini­tial agree­ment with CIL, the rail­way was sup­posed to pro­vide 250 rakes a day. In the re­cent meet­ings with of­fi­cials, Rail­way Min­is­ter Piyush Goyal directed both the min­istries to work to­wards that tar­get.

On the al­le­ga­tion of a pos­si­ble di­ver­sion of more rakes to power plants in poll-bound Gu­jarat, the rail­ways main­tained that it was pro­vid­ing rakes to var­i­ous states in ac­cor­dance with the re­spec­tive con­tracts.

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