Weather gives a breather to power sector
With lower demand, coal stock situation at power plants likely to improve
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.