The Centre on Thursday rushed to take corrective steps following the warning from state-owned NTPC that power plants are running on very low coal stock of less than two days.
“Corrective” action is being taken by the government to improve coal supply, including efforts by Coal India Ltd to raise production beyond current year’s targets. Power utilities have been advised to use imported coal wherever necessary, Power Minister Piyush Goyal told Lok Sabha.
“We are increasing the (coal) crushing capacity, increasing (the number of) washeries in mining areas. We have also appealed to the Environment Ministry to allow us to mine additional fuel wherever there are possibilities,” Goyal said.
He also said that Environment Ministry approval is being sought to mine more coal and resource-rich states of Odisha and Jharkhand have been asked to help transport coal out quickly.
Last week, coal-based power plants sent a warning signal to the Centre, saying that electricity production would be hit severely as they don’t have sufficient stock of coal.
While the nation’s largest power producer NTPC stated that six of its plants have critical levels of coal stocks, the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) said 46 out of 100 electricity generation stations in the country have fuel stock of less than seven days.
On July 14, NTPC wrote to the Power Ministry saying six of its plants with a combined capacity of 16,840 MW or 15 per cent of India’s total energy capacity from coal-fired plants, have stocks of up to two days and cannot weather even a “small” disruption in supplies.
While blaming the previous UPA government policies for the current crisis, Goyal told reporters separately that the problem of coal supply had aggravated since 2009 and the “crisis was the result of five years of policy flip-flop and the uncertainty has to be resolved”.
He said the “go” and “no go” policy of the Centre in 2009 led to the fall in production capacity of several old mines while new mines could not be opened. Thereafter, in 2010, a comprehensive environmental pollution index was introduced which affected seven coal fields and hampered production of an additional 40 million tonnes of coal.