Despite low power demand in the state, only a private thermal plant in Punjab has access to coal nearly two months after the coal mine at Pachhwara in Jharkhand became operational. The province plans to stock 20 days of coal per thermal plant by March 31, but the slow movement of coal has raised concerns.
Only Nabha Power Limited in Rajpura has the maximum coal stock of the thermal plants in the state, which is in a critical condition. When the paddy season begins in November, inventories increase, and they deplete between June and September.
Ropar and Lehra Mohabbat thermal plants have sufficient coal stocks to last for 3.2 days each. Rajpura’s stock is sufficient for 26.9 days, Talwandi Sabo’s is sufficient for 5.1 days, and GVK’s is sufficient for 6.4 days.
A total of 1,445 lakh units of power were available in the state on Tuesday, with a maximum demand of 7,951 MW. Ropar and Rajpura have one unit each undergoing annual maintenance, while Lehra Mohabbatt has one out of service since May 13, 2022.
A Talwandi Sabo unit and a Ropar unit, both experiencing a breakdown due to boiler problems, will likely be revived within two days.
In view of the increasing demand for power during the first six months of the 2023-24 fiscal, the Power Ministry again asked state governments and private generators to “blend coal with imported coal by 6 percent.” According to All India Power Engineers Federation spokesperson VK Gupta, coal production has increased 15.2 percent over last year.
The Centre has also instructed Punjab to use the rail-sea-rail (RSR) mode for transporting coal from Mahanadi and Talchar coalfields in Odisha to Punjab via Mundra in Gujarat, increasing the transportation time from five to 25 days.
Punjab will replenish its coal stock ahead of the paddy season, said Power Minister Harbhajan Singh ETO. It is possible that there will be temporary hiccups due to transportation, but we will have enough coal within a few weeks, he said.
Bhagwant Mann, who received the first rake of coal at Guru Gobind Singh Super Thermal Plant on December 16, said that Punjab is now a coal surplus state since coal from the Pachwara mine in Jharkhand will suffice for the next 30 years. According to him, the state government started mining coal from Pachhwara on December 12 and aimed to ship 25 lakh metric tonnes of coal to Punjab by March 2023.
So far, 1.5 lakh tonnes of coal have been received from Pachhwara, according to a senior official at Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSCPL). As a result of too little rain during the winter this season, 300 free units for domestic consumers, and less solar power, more coal is needed to operate the thermal plants. “Punjab needs 20 rakes of coal per day, but due to transport issues, there are hindrances,” he said.
Awarded in 2001, Pachhwara supplied water from March 2006 until 2014, when the supply was suspended.