In a recent development, India”s electricity regulatory body, Central Electricity Authority (CEA) (New Delhi), directed the power ministry to commission a detailed study on how much coal would be required to bridge the demand-supply gap in the country, according to a report by Industrial Info Resources. The study will include short- and long-term analyses of coal requirements for fresh thermal power plants. Officials have indicated that the study has become imperative to assess coal requirements for the next 10 to 20 years and recommend improvements in the transmission, distribution and quality of power supplied.

During the 12th (2012-17) and 13th (2017-22) Five-Year plans, India is targeting new power generating capacity of 85,000 MW and 35,000 MW, respectively. By 2016-17, Industrial Info says the country”s requirement of coal to meet the projected power demand is estimated to reach 850 million tons, which is almost double India”s current demand of 434 million tons.

Several thermal power plants in India are facing acute coal-supply shortages, according to Industrial Info. Experts say coal stock of at least 15 to 30 days is necessary at each power plant to ensure uninterrupted power generation. However, in a recent CEA report, about 17 power plants in the country were operating with less than one week”s stock. Another 15 power generating facilities had coal stock for only four operating days. The report also indicates the state-owned Coal India Limited (Kolkata, West Bengal), which is India”s primary coal supplier, had slipped its targets in April, May and June. Supply issues are likely to continue in July as well.

Sriprakash Jaiswal, Minister of State for Coal, said that the Ministry would invest about $86 million in 2010-11 to develop road and waterway infrastructure. The investment is expected to provide alternate routes to railways and facilitate easier movement of coal to various power projects.

Recently, commenting on India”s growth drivers, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh indicated the power sector is a major deterrent to India”s target of attaining economic growth of 9 percent. In 2009-10, this sector posted losses of about $8.61 billion. As of March 31, 2010, about 30 percent of the power generated in India was lost due to commercial, transmission, distribution and technical issues. India”s transmission and distribution losses are considered the highest worldwide, according to Industrial Info.

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