Public sector power engineers under the aegis of All India Power Engineers’ Federation (AIPEF) today flayed the coal import order issued by the union power ministry to the domestic thermal power plants.
The extension of two mandates, via two separate orders by the coal ministry, is aimed at increasing coal imports.
In two separate notices, the union power ministry directed imported coal-based (ICB) units to run till June 2024 and all power generating companies to import coal up to 6 percent of their requirements till March 2024.
The ministry cited rising power demand and lack of optimum domestic coal supply as the underlying reasons.
The ministry invoked Section 11 of the Electricity Act, 2003 to direct all the ICBs with a cumulative capacity of 17 Gigawatt (Gw) to operate and generate power to their full capacity.
Earlier, the ministry had issued such mandate in February 2023 extending it to June, and later to October 2023.
Meanwhile, AIPEF alleged the union power ministry was repeatedly invoking section 11 of Electricity Act 2003, which was a “clear attempt to provide business and profits to companies engaged in coal trading/import” while loading the cost escalation due to import on consumers.
“…the coal ministry has strongly contended there is no shortage of coal, and the coal stock and supply position is vastly improved this year as compared to previous year,” the Federation said in a press release to stress that the domestic coal stock was sufficient to fend off any need to import coal.
AIPEF chairman Shailendra Dubey noted the decision to import coal was unjustified since the coal ministry has ensured adequate availability of domestic coal which is far more economic.
The Federation has demanded the power ministry to withdraw its orders extending the import window, so that the more economic indigenous coal be utilised as there is no shortage or crisis in availability of indigenous coal.
However, if at all any coal is to be imported henceforth, the power ministry should bear the extra cost of imported coal since the more economic alternative of Indian coal was already available in stock at thermal power stations across the country, Dubey maintained.