More rakes to power sector poised to hit key infrastructure: Railways

The ministry is of the view that “any more curtailing will cause crucial infrastructure industries to suffer.”


Railways  | Power Sector | Coal

With the summer months approaching and power and coal demand expected to touch a record high, the ministry of railways has said it is unable to increase rakes for coal supply. Since last year, the railways has been curtailing rake supply to non-regulated sectors to meet the enhanced demand of the power sector.

The ministry is of the view that “any more curtailing will cause crucial infrastructure industries to suffer.”

According to the National Power Portal, the current average coal stock at power units stands at 9.4 days, almost close to the critical level stock of seven days. Several non-regulated sectors — ranging from metals to paper — have claimed to have seen low coal supply to the tune of 30-40 per cent of their demand.

A senior official said the railways is close to hitting the ceiling of its rake supply to the power sector. “We want the ministry of coal to sort out its issues that are causing supply bottlenecks of approximately 76,000 tonnes of coal every day,” said the official.

Business Standard recently reported that the coal ministry had shifted responsibility for the demand-supply mismatch on the railways. “Avoidable delays in loading at colliery sidings and loading of over-sized boulders of coal lead to lags that could otherwise be used to transport 76,000 tonnes of coal every day. In the current circumstances, this would help the power sector substantially,” the official said.

Several power units are reporting major grade slippage in their coal stocks. Low-grade coal leads to losses for the power unit as they have to burn more coal and demand more rakes. The ministry of railways also complained that both at the loading and unloading end, there is significant delay by coal companies and generation units, which impacts the turnaround time of the rakes, said industry sources. “At the first inter-ministerial meet on January 10, we were asked to increase our supply capacity by one lakh tonne, which we did,” the official said.

In February, the railways has allotted 405 rakes per day (rpd) for the transportation of coal. This is against the demand of 441 rakes per day requested by the coal ministry.

According to data, the railways increased rake supply for the sector by 33 per cent between April and February.

Coal loading till February has risen to 506 mt, 25 per cent higher as compared to the corresponding period in FY21. In the July-September quarter, 300 rakes dedicated to coal supply remain stable, or idle, every day, according to railways data.

“This happens on account of rains, and the coal companies need to plan for these dips and surges in demand better and flatten the curve,” the official said.

The Union ministry of power recently issued norms for stocking of coal. It has asked the power units to stock coal in advance, ahead of the low supply during monsoon.

Last year, between August and October, most power plants had reported a severe shortage of coal. Subsequently, the Centre issued a diktat, saying that coal supply to the power units should be prioritised. This led to limited or even no supply to non-regulated sectors, which claim they are still reeling from a shortage of coal.

No power crisis, generating more than peak: Min

India is not facing any power crisis, Parliament was informed on Tuesday. “There is no power crisis in the country. As of February 28, the installed generation capacity is around 395.6 Gw, which is sufficient to meet the demand of electricity in the country. The peak demand experienced during the current year was only 203 Gw,” Power Minister R K Singh told Rajya Sabha. (PTI)

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