Coal is once again helping avert electricity shortage in India by making it possible for thermal power stations to raise output to more than 103% of their scheduled production target with a view to bridging generation shortfall from hydro-electric plants.
Government data shows state-run Coal India Ltd (CIL), which is the lifeline for power plants, fed 82 million tonnes of coal to power plants in the April-May period alone, marking a 15% increase in supplies over the previous corresponding period.
The increased fuel supply helped coal-fired power stations to operate beyond their targets for meeting supply gap left by hydel units, which saw generation dropping to 88% of estimates as reservoirs ran low.
The coal and railway ministries under Piyush Goyal's watch have been preparing thermal plants for such an eventuality and ramping up fuel supply. This has resulted in thermal power generation rising 4.5% in 2017-18 from the previous fiscal, while hydro power generation has shown a drop of 20%.
The higher fuel supplies to power plants underline the substantial growth in coal production in the last four years. Total coal production increased to 676 million tonnes in 2017-18 from 609 million tonnes in FY2014-15. CIL's output went up from 494 million tonnes to 567 million tonnes. In the April-May period of the current fiscal, total coal production stood at 111 million tonnes, with CIL's output pegged at at 92 million tonnes.
"What used to happen in 7-8 years (earlier) has happened in four years." Goyal said on June 11. Though coal dispatch too has risen apace with rising coal production, several power plants are still complaining of running low on fuel.
(Writing by Becky Du Editing by Tammy Yang)
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