Coal inventories at power plants at an all-time low have been making headlines for the past few days. On average, power plants have gone for about 13 days and coal is now left for about four days. The government, however, has been stepping up efforts to deal with the coal shortage.
Power Minister RK Singh on Wednesday said, India's coal production has seen some pick-up in the last few days and the coal crunch is starting to ease. Speaking to CNBC-TV18’s Anshu Sharma, the minister said that there was enough stock of power to meet peak demand.
Singh’s statement comes on a day when the government has allowed captive mines to sell 50 percent of their produce in the open market.
“Actually, we get coal every day from the coal mines. In between, there was some difficulty because of continuous rain in the coal-producing areas and mining became difficult. After that, it has picked up again so, we are okay,” he claimed.
When asked about stabilisation of coal availability, he said, “The shortage is not because of lack of regeneration. As it is, our stocks today are for about four days’ requirement, so it is not lack of generation. They (states) are probably not able to buy power because they don't have money or there may be some distribution glitches but there is no lack of power, any state can buy as much power as they want, just have to pay for it.”
On higher prices he said, the prices being referred to are the prices of electricity on the exchange at peak hours, which is a very small quantity for a very small period. “But there is very little power left to be sold on the exchange and that is why that price in the exchange is high. But all discoms have signed PPAs that will meet their requirement and they get power at the PPA price. So what you are talking about is just about let us say a minuscule 0.05 percent or 0.005 percent and that is not what the discoms have to pay.”
Talking about the energy demand, he said, there are a number of mines where the production is scheduled to begin. He also cited a meeting with the Minister of Environment and Forests about clearances that are pending and will come in the way of starting some mines.
He added that those are being cleared and there is going to be another meeting with the Ministry of Environment and Forests for which the agenda has been decided.
“My priority is to provide electricity that this country requires for growth. We will provide that and I am fully confident that we shall be doing it,” he said.
Union Minister said the increase in demand is good news and it means the country is growing and it will get the power it needs for growth.
Commenting on the gas-based power plants, Singh said if electricity is made from gas, the price will come to about Rs 6-8 per unit, which is very expensive for people. “Why should they pay Rs 6-8 if they are getting power at Rs 3? So, it has to be competitive.”
He said there is a committee that is already working in conjunction with the Ministry of Petroleum to figure out how the prices can be brought down, but ultimately the key factor is that the international price of gas is high. “I don't look at it sector-wise, I look at the total availability. That is what concerns me and with the total availability right now, we are meeting the demand and will continue to do so.”