The abandoned Matrishri Usha Jayaswal Thermal Power Plant stands in Bana village in Latehar district, Jharkhand. (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)

Need To Open More Mines To Tackle Coal Shortage, Says RK Singh

Operating more mines is the solution to coal shortage, and problems associated with idle thermal power plants, said RK Singh, minister for power and new and renewable energy (independent charge).

“Currently, coal shortage is an issue,” the minister said at an event in Delhi today. “You must operationalise all mines that you have and open more.”

Singh called for the strengthening of the coal mining wing of NTPC Ltd., the nation’s biggest electricity generator by capacity. “Thermal (power) capacity is also a constraint and we need to do something about it.”

The minister said that existing the coal mines are unable to meet demand from installed capacity in the thermal sector, while pointing out that many such plants are lying idle.

As on Sept. 25, nine of 120 thermal power plants have ‘super critical’ coal stocks, or those that would last for less than four days, while 11 plants have ‘critical’ coal stocks that can sustain operations for less than seven days, according to the Central Electricity Authority data.

As many as thirty four stressed assets worth Rs 1.8 trillion have been identified by the government in the coal-fired power sector. One of the major reasons for stress in the sector is lack of coal supply that have made the plants unviable.

Singh said that there may not be enough coal to meet demand for electricity generation by 2030 and India needs to incentivise addition of flexible renewable energy to thermal power plants.

The government had constituted a high-level empowered committee headed by the cabinet secretary in July to address the issues faced by stressed thermal power projects.

It’s looking to maximise the efficiency of investment, including changes in the fuel allocation policy, regulatory framework and mechanisms to facilitate sale of power.