Anticipating India’s peak electricity demand to hit 230 gigawatts (GW) this summer, the Power Ministry has directed Gencos to start importing coal at 6 per cent of their requirement till September 2023 to maintain smooth operations.

The Ministry, in a notification on Monday, said efforts have been made to increase coal availability from all sources. Although supply has increased in Q4 FY23, it is not adequate to meet the unprecedented increase in electricity demand.

“As per the past trend, the likely supply of domestic coal during H1 FY24 would be around 392 million tonnes (mt). Thus, around 24 mt would be the anticipated shortfall during H1 FY24,” it added.

Accordingly, directions have been given to all Gencos, including independent power producers (IPPs), for timely import of coal for blending purposes and maximising production in captive mines.

The Coal Ministry has committed to increase the supply to meet the revised target of 197.7 mt, subject to availability of rakes and other logistics issues, Power Ministry said adding, efforts have been made to address logistics issues in cooperation with the Railways.

Rising demand

Last month, in an order, the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) observed that peak demand was fluctuating and reached 187 gigawatts (GW) in October and November 2022. However, it increased in December and touched 200 GW on December 23.

National Load Despatch Centre (NLDC) data point towards rising peak power demand met during the day. In the last week of December, the average peak demand met was around 200 GW, which rose further during the first week of January 2023 to 202 GW. Energy met rose by 10 per cent y-o-y to 121 billion units (BU) in December.

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.

Anticipating the rise in power consumption, the CERC, in a suo motu order on December 28, extended the price cap of ₹12 per unit on all market segments at power exchanges until further orders.

In December, Power Minister RK Singh said he expects power demand during April 2023 to be higher by 30-40 GW y-o-y. Energy consumption in April 2022 was 133 BU, which was 11 per cent higher y-o-y, while the national peak demand was 207.11 GW, a 13 per cent annual growth.

Coal stocks

The Coal Ministry is also working on increasing coal stocks at power plants. In November, it said that plans are underway to build stocks so that by March 2023 the reserves go up to 45 mt.

As per the national power portal, the coal reserves at domestic coal-based power plants stood at 30.02 million tonnes as of Monday, while those at imported coal-based plants and plants based on washery rejects was 1.9 mt and 70,000 tonnes, respectively. The number of non-operational plants stood at 40.