New Delhi, July 28
THE fuel crunch faced by power utilities is likely to continue for two to three years, with supplies of both coal and gas falling far short of demand. "The coal shortage is not going to get better over the next couple of years. By 2008-09, we think the situation will improve," the Power Secretary, Mr R.V. Shahi, said at a CII seminar here on Thursday.
To meet the deficit in domestic production, power utilities plan to import about 20 million tonnes of coal during the current fiscal, 40 per cent more than this year's import of 14 mt.
Mr Shahi said that besides imports, there was need to step up domestic production also. He said the Power Ministry has taken up the matter with the Coal Ministry, which has promised to expedite approvals for coalmines.
Mr Shahi said about 24 coal projects were linked to power projects in the Tenth Five-Year Plan, but only six received all the clearances.
The process has been speeded up and 18 other projects would be cleared shortly, he added. He said power utilities also faced acute gas shortage, with many stations running at 60 per cent Plant Load Factor, as against a national average of over 75 per cent PLF.
The current gas production is about 90 million standard cubic meter per day (mscmd) and there was shortage of 18 mscmd.
He said production from captive coalmines, allotted to power producers or state electricity boards, would begin middle of next year.
Power major National Thermal Power Corporation Ltd (NTPC), which has also been allotted one block in Jharkhand, will begin production only in July 2007 with a target of 10 mt of coal.
This fiscal, power majors NTPC, Reliance Energy Ltd (REL), state electricity boards and private firms are expected to import over 13.25 mt of coal to tide over the crisis.
At present, as many as six thermal power stations are running with super critical coal stock of less than four days, and 16 other plants have critical stocks for less than a week.
NTPC will import 3.98 mt of coal and has mandated MMTC. Other companies that would import coal include Maharashtra State Electricity Board (1.38 mt), Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (1.56 mt), REL (0.42 mt) and Punjab SEB (0.5 mt).
The country requires about 18 mt of coal stocks at any given time for its 75 thermal power plants.