The Coal Ministry is working on maintaining a cumulative stock of 110 million tonnes (mt), which includes 65 million tonnes (mt) at pitheads of mines run by Coal India (CIL), and 40-45 mt of reserve stocks at thermal power plants (TPPs), by March 2023.

Speaking to presspersons on Thursday, Coal Secretary Amrit Lal Meena said: “We also follow CEA projections. Accordingly, a slightly higher requirement of coal based on higher power generation was worked out. It was around 5 mt (projected by CEA). The question is not on the supply side, but of evacuation. The Power Minister has set a target and we should see that a closing stock of 40-45 mt is maintained at TPPs by March 2023.”

The government expects demand for the key commodity to rise further in anticipation of rising power consumption, particularly during the peak summer months of April-June. The 20th Electric Power Survey of India, published by the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) in November 2022, said the all-India peak electricity demand for FY24 beginning March 2023 is projected to be around 230 GW.

When asked about the Ministry’s plans for coal stocks, he said: “The minister has also desired that 65 mt of coal be kept at CIL pitheads. So, we plan to have 65 mt at the CIL end, 40-45 mt at the power plant end and another 7-8 mt in transit till March 2023. So we have tentative plans for total stocks of 110 MT. It may be slightly compromised due to higher consumption at the power plant end. Our stock at the CIL pithead is around 34 mt at present. At plants, the reserve is 30.6 mt as of Thursday.

He said the Power Ministry’s directive for plants to import 6 per cent of their coal requirement was based on an “abundance of caution”.

Coastal shipping

For the first time, the government is working on supplying coal to power plants on the western coast through the coastal shipping route.

“We also feel it would be better that some coal is transported through the sea route from Paradip port to the western coast. So far, coal evacuated from Paradip goes to Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and some NTPC plants. But, for the first time, the Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Punjab Gencos along with NTPC have floated tenders for appointment of transporters for evacuating coal from Paradip. The initial estimates are for 10-12 rakes per day to start moving for these companies. If that happens, there will be additional capacity augmentation,” he added.