The increasing gap between consumption and receipt of domestic coal between April 2022 and January 2023 forced the Power Ministry to direct thermal power plants (TPPs) to start importing coal for blending in order to avoid blackouts.

“If the imports for blending had not been made, the coal stocks in thermal power plants would have reduced to zero in September 2022 and would have continued so, leading to widespread power cuts and blackouts,” Power Minister R K Singh said in a written response to a query in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.

During April-September 2022 (H1 FY23), the receipt of domestic coal was about 355 million tonnes (mt) against the consumption of around 385 mt (domestic: 359 mt; Imported: 26.46 mt). The gap between supply of domestic coal and consumption was about 1.6 lakh tonnes per day during this period, he added.

The gap between daily coal consumption and daily arrival of domestic coal ranged between 2.65 lakh tonnes and 0.5 lakh tonnes between September 2022 and January 2023, the Minister said.

“Therefore, Ministry of Power advised Central, State Gencos and Independent Power Producers (IPPs) on January 9, 2023 to import coal at 6 per cent by weight through a transparent competitive procurement for blending so as to have sufficient coal stocks at their power plants for smooth operations till September 2023,” Singh said.

In FY24, the power supply position has been regularly reviewed by the Ministry and it has been observed that there is consistent rising trend in the power demand in the country coupled with inadequate supply of domestic coal which has resulted in rapid depletion of coal stocks at Domestic Coal Based (DCB) plants across the country.

Average growth

During April-October 2023, the average growth in coal-based generation, with respect to corresponding period of FY23, was 8.6 per cent and the depletion in DCB plants stocks was 15.3 mt.

There was also additional pressure on coal-based power generation due to lower hydro power generation. About 14 per cent fall of hydro generation has been recorded in H1 FY24 compared to the corresponding period of FY23 due to variable monsoon rainfall. Approximately 2 gigawatt (GW) of hydro capacity is out because of recent floods in Sikkim.

“Therefore, in order to ensure un-interrupted power supply across the country, after careful consideration, Ministry of Power vide letter dated October 25, 2023 directed all GENCOs (Central, State and IPPs) to continue import coal for blending at 6 per cent (by weight) minimum for the rest period of FY24 till March 2024,” Singh said.