New Delhi

According to energy intelligence firm Kpler, inbound shipments by the world’s second largest coal importer, stood at 18.66 million tonnes (MT) last month, a jump of 36 per centm-o-m and 47 per cent y-o-y.

India has been the major demand side driver of the global coal market over the past month, with strong inbound volumes of both thermal and metallurgical coal, Kpler said.

A top government official said that higher imports is an indication of the preparations to meet the rise in demand of power during the upcoming during upcoming winter and the next summer season.

“At present, the gap in consumption and receipt at domestic power plants is around 2.5 lakh tonnes (LT) daily. Though the Coal Ministry has upped despatch, the demand has been rising at over 20 per cent y-o-y and government wants to ensure adequate stocks,” he added.

Higher imports

Kpler’s Lead Major Dry Bulks Analyst, Alexis Ellender told businessline: “India’s thermal coal imports climbed to a 15-month high of 18.66 MT in October, up by 5.98 MT Y-o-Y, outperforming our expectations amid robust shipments from Indonesia and South Africa.”

Demand for thermal coal is being driven by rising temperatures and a ramping up of economic activity following the end of monsoon season. Despite surging mine output, domestic coal production is still unable to meet demand, prompting recent government announcements to boost imports, he explained.

“We expect shipments to retreat from their October peak in November, but to continue to exceed the year-ago level through the fourth quarter and into early 2024 and have raised our Indian thermal coal import expectations for the period. This view is held despite the expectation domestic supply will improve amid a seasonal upturn in mining activity and reflects the strength of demand, plus ongoing challenges moving coal from mines to end users,” Ellender added.

Power demand

Meeting India’s rising power demand was also a key issue during the recently concluded meeting of Centre and State Power Ministers (October 6-7).

Power Minister R K Singh also directed states and union territories to run power plants at full capacity. During August, September and October, India’s power consumption rose by over 20 per cent Y-o-Y.

Sources said that in the next peak demand season, April to June, peak power demand can scale 250 gigawatts (GW) from 241 GW recorded on September 1, 2023.

India’s energy consumption rose 22 per cent Y-o-Y to 139 billion units in October owing to a surge in electricity demand due to higher consumption, below-average rainfall and lower base from last year.

In October 2023, thermal power plants (TPPs) consumed 67.46 MT of coal against a receipt of 60.90 MT, while imported coal use stood at 3.02 MT. The gap between receipt and consumption stood at 3.54 MT, which was met by draw down from reserve stocks.

During April-October 2023, the cumulative consumption by TPPs stood at 476.71 MT against a receipt of 442.51 MT, whereas imported coal consumption stood at 20 MT. The gap between receipt and consumption stood at 14.2 MT that was met from reserves.

TPPs ran at a plant load factor (PLF) of 71.72 per cent in October 2023 against 55.11 per cent last year. For April-October, the PLF was 68.73 per cent against 62.75 per cent.

As of October 11, the 148 non-pithead power plants (149 gigawatts capacity) had a total domestic coal stock of 12.83 MT and imported stock of 1.24 MT, against a daily consumption of 2.07 MT.