New Delhi

The Power Ministry has directed all the Gencos to increase coal imports from 4 per cent to 6 per cent of their total usage till March 2024 as the gap between receipt and consumption of domestic stocks hit 12 million tonnes (mt) despite using imported coal.

The Ministry observed that there is a consistent rising trend in the power demand in the country coupled with inadequate supply of domestic coal which has resulted in the rapid depletion of coal stocks at Domestic coal-based (DCB) plants across the country. “The gap between receipt of domestic coal and consumption of coal (domestic + equivalent domestic of imported coal) during September 1 to October 9, 2023 was to the tune of 12 MT,” it added.

About 11 per cent y-o-y fall in hydropower generation has been recorded in H1 FY24 due to variable monsoon rainfall. Around 2 gigawatts (GW) of hydro capacity is out because of recent floods in Sikkim.

The Reservoir levels in Northern, Eastern and Southern regions are less compared to the previous year as of October 9, which has resulted in lower reservoir energy content at the pan-India level. This has put an additional burden on coal-based thermal generation, the ministry said.

Importing mandates

“Therefore, in order to ensure uninterrupted power supply across the country, after careful consideration and in consultation with Central Electricity Authority (CEA) and Grid India, it has been decided blending of imported coal at 6 per cent (by weight) minimum may be continued till March 2024. The Gencos may continuously review their stock position and opt for blending as per the requirements if the shortfall in domestic coal supply is more than 6 per cent,” the Ministry said.

Separately, the Ministry also directed imported coal based (ICB) power plants to continue operations under Section 11 of the Electricity Act till June 2024.

In view of the surge in electricity demand, inadequate supply of domestic coal and reduced availability of hydro generation, it is imperative that the availability of power from ICB generating stations is available to meet the demand, it added.

“Therefore, after consultations with the CEA, the government has decided to extend the time period for Section 11 directive to ICB generators, up to June 30, 2024,” it said.

Stretched coal stocks

As per the CEA, during October 1-22, the domestic coal-based (DCB) power plants consumed 51.41 mt of domestic coal against a receipt of 45.37 mt. Imported coal consumption stood at 2.32 mt and the gap between consumption and receipt, which was met from reserve stocks, stood at 3.72 mt.

Similarly, during April to October 22 in FY24, DCB plants consumed 460.66 mt of domestic stocks against a receipt of 426.98 mt. Imported coal consumption stood at 19.3 mt. The shortfall met through reserve stocks stood at 14.38 mt.

According to the National Power Portal, at the 165 DCB power plants, with an installed capacity of almost 190 gigawatts (GW), domestic coal stocks at power plants stood at 17.57 MT and imported stock at 1.15 MT on October 23.

The percentage of actual stock vis-a-vis normative stock stood at 37 per cent on the same date. The DCB plants with critical stocks stood at 75. On the same day, stocks at ICB plants stood at 1.86 mt. Seven plants designed on imported coal have critical stocks.

Rising power demand

Pan-India power consumption rose almost 11 per cent y-o-y to 140.49 billion units (BU) in September this year largely due to rising industrial and personal consumption. The hot and humid weather also led to more demand for cooling thereby increasing demand.

Thermal power plants (TPPs) ran at a plant load factor (PLF) of 69.25 per cent last month against 60.23 per cent in September 2022. Power generation during the month stood at 108,697.62 gigawatt-hour (GWh) against 93,295.94 GWh a year ago.

Higher power demand led to higher coal consumption with domestic plants consuming 71.4 mt coal in September 2023 against 61.7 mt a year-ago. During April-September FY24, TPPs consumed 422.2 mt against 389.3 mt in the same period last fiscal year.

TPPs consumed 5.58 mt imported coal in September 2023 against 5.03 mt in the same month last year, while during the April-September period in FY24, the number stood at 27.78 mt against 34.30 mt a year ago.