The question of coal – the Hindu


Dependent solely on the Union government for the supply of coal and with no possible importation, Tamil Nadu’s electricity company, Tangedco, manages to keep the thermal plants running on a daily basis. Bearing in mind the load-shedding nightmares of ten years ago that dethroned it, the ruling DMK has its job to do before next summer.

The country’s coal shortage recently made headlines, with a few states imposing power cuts, causing panic. While Tamil Nadu does not face a coal shortage, the stock is a matter of concern for the state-owned electricity company, Tangedco, which has prompted officials to ask the Department of Energy to l ‘Union to increase coal supply.

The question of coal

A senior Tangedco official said the utility has almost been pushed into a day-to-day existence. The state, which received 40,000 tonnes of coal last week, is receiving 50,000 tonnes this week. The 50,000 tonnes are just enough to operate the three power plants in North Chennai, Mettur and Thoothukudi. These stations consume approximately 52,000 tonnes per day to produce 4,320 megawatts. With the limited supply, Tangedco was able to produce 3,000 megawatts to 3,500 megawatts per day from these plants.

Although the state has wind and solar power plants and non-polluting gas-fired power plants that account for 42% of the total installed capacity of 32,595 MW, thermal power has remained the basis of electricity officials to power the State, especially to meet peak demand in the morning and evening. The lack of supplies from the coal mines created a stinging situation for Tangedco officials. In the recent past, the state has not been faced with the situation of having coal stocks for 4-5 days against the mandatory 9-10 day limit. The state had stocks for 15 days last year.

Civil servants have reason to be concerned. The windy season is coming to an end. Peak power demand this year has been in the range of 13,000 MW to 14,000 MW, slightly above the levels of previous years. Usually, electricity demand in October will be around 12,000 megawatts. The state had a record demand of 16,845.50 megawatts on April 10 and the highest consumption, at 9,372 million units, on April 9 of this year.

Since the coal shortage began in the last week of September, the Union Energy Ministry has been holding weekly meetings with officials from the state power company, as well as with various parties. stakeholders, including Coal India and Southern Railway, to increase coal supplies and provide daily post updates. “The Ministry of Energy has steadily increased the supply of coal from 45,000 tonnes to 60,000 tonnes per day, which has kept the average stock for four to five days,” said Tangedco CMD Rajesh Lakhoni. “We also ask the Ministry of Energy to increase the supply to 1 lakh ton.”

The question of coal

Once the northeast monsoon sets in, Tangedco expects demand for electricity to continue to decline, which will help it increase the stock of coal. Electricians are pleased that such a situation did not occur during the period April-June when the peak load would be of the order of 16,000 MW. The state experienced a major energy crisis more than a decade ago. Officials say the Union government’s decision not to allow state utilities to import coal is not helping.

Tangedco stopped importing coal after the Union government issued guidelines in 2020, declaring 750 lakh tonnes of domestic coal available as compensation for the end of imports. Without any imports, Tangedco officials are entirely dependent on indigenous charcoal. This explains the current situation.

Meanwhile, retired electricity officials want Tangedco to step up exploration for the Chandrabila coal block and get permission from the Union government to import coal from Indonesia. While the state asked the Union government for more coal, the Department of Energy asked it to take additional coal from central power plants. But the supply to central power plants is low, officials say. Worse is the situation of private power producers who use imported coal. Private power producers have stopped producing electricity. This forces officials to buy electricity from the stock exchange.

Tangedco, which has partnered with private generators to purchase 2,830 MW in the long term, only received 800 to 850 MW in the past week. This forced the utility to buy nearly 3,000 MW from the stock exchange during peak hours.

Power generation giant Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC), which operates thermal power plants with a capacity of over 2,000 MW, including NLC Tamil Nadu Power Limited (NTPL), has assured Tangedco that sufficient stock is available. was available to meet the requirements of NLC Power Plants with surplus coal supplied to NTPC.

The question of coal

An NLC official said that NTPL, a 1,000 MW coal-fired power plant in Thoothukudi, requires around 12,000 tonnes of coal per day, and there are no worries as the coal is supplied by the Talabira II blocks. and III in Sambalpur, Odisha. The two blocks were awarded to NLCIL by the Union government on May 2, 2016, under the 2015 Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act for optimal use of the coal mines for power stations such as the thermal power station. Neyveli Talabira (NTTPP) and NTPL. . However, given the high demand for coal, the NLC is making every effort to increase coal production to 1 metric ton per year from the current year and up to 20 metric tons per year from the current year. Next year. This will not only ensure supplies to factories, but also make coal available on the market, according to the official.

Tangedco has suffered for several years from a low supply of coal, and due to the delay in the sequencing of new coal blocks for fuel supply agreements. Confirming the allocation of the Chandrabila block to the state, a Tangedco official said the block was in the “exploration” phase. Sources say the bloc has not been “renewed” by the Union government.

The Ministry of Coal had awarded the block of Chandrabila to Tangedco in February 2016. Tangedco also signed an agreement for the development and production of coal blocks with the Ministry of Coal in March 2016 for the exploitation of a total area of ​​9 , 32 km². However, since part of the mine is in the forest area, Tangedco was unable to obtain environmental clearances, sources said.

Every year, the coal supplies of Indian companies are insufficient. The Ministry of Coal and the Ministry of Electricity have been requested to task Coal India with organizing the supply of the agreed quantities of coal to the state utilities. Although the state has renewable energy in the form of wind turbines, solar power plants and non-polluting gas plants, electricity officials have always treated wind as ‘crippled’ energy and solar as unfit. to meet demand at peak times. Gas is more expensive.

Analysts believe that wind power has not been fully exploited. Vibhuti Garg, an energy economist at the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, says the state with huge wind power potential has not used it properly. If the State is still the leader in wind power, the wind turbines, installed several years ago, have not been replenished. If wind turbines are replaced by better designed and more efficient wind turbines, wind power can increase further. It is better than buying expensive electricity on the exchange. She suggests that the state invest in battery storage because the cost of batteries is likely to drop in the coming years and increase hydraulic storage to capture hydroelectric power.

S. Gandhi, Power Engineers’ Society of Tamil Nadu, said that until the state government takes action to restore coal imports at the earliest, thermal power plants will have a tough time before next april. The cost of imported coal has risen from $ 60 to over $ 250. Electricity officials must import coal from Indonesia as soon as the price drops dramatically; otherwise, the state could again witness power cuts next summer.

(With the contributions of S. Prasad in Cuddalore)


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