Coal India is talking to the Railways to increase rake loading from an average of 216 so far since April to 250 by the end of the fiscal year, as it seeks to meet increased demand with both power and non-power sectors facing a short-supply of the dry fuel.
At present, the state-run monopoly has been focusing on supplying coal to the power sector, which is struggling with dwindling stocks and falling generation at many plants.
“The effort to increase rakes has started to show result. This month, average loading of coal on rakes for power has been 214 (238 including to non-power sectors) while last November, 199 (235 in total) rakes were being sent to the power sector,” a senior CIL executive said on Tuesday.
“In fact, on Monday, we managed to achieve loading on 249 rakes, close to the target. Of these, 224 went to the power sector,” he said. “However, we need to achieve loading on 250 rakes on a regular basis so that demand from both the power and non-power sector can be handled.”
Over the past few months, reduction in generation from non-thermal sources like hydel and wind resulted in increased demand for thermal power.
This led thermal power generators, which were witnessing damp demand during April and May, to ask for additional coal since they were using up stocks at a faster pace.
“Supplies could not be increased overnight as Coal India faces logistics constraints. This resulted in falling coal stocks and generation. In fact, a few generation units had to shut. In order to make sure the situation is not repeated in the future, Coal India is working hand in hand with the railways to increase rake loading to 250 on a daily basis,” the executive said.
At present, coal stocks at power plants are good for six days and 22 plants have critical stocks. Total stocks at power plants is about 8 million tonnes, compared with 18 million tonnes a year earlier when only 4 plants had critical stocks.
We do need to proactively liberalise fuel supply. Now that we have a policy on commercial mining, captive coal miners need to be encouraged to expand supply to more than one customer. It would boost economies of scale in mining and evacuation, and make sense nationally. We do need forward-looking policy so that the more efficient producers can readily seek custom.