Due to the increased landing cost of coal in the coming months, Punjab already faces a coal shortage despite a captive mine becoming operational.
Due to the likely shortage of coal in the summer, the Centre has issued a directive to “blend coal with imported coal by 6 per cent” and rail-sea-rail (RSR) will increase the cost by 20 per cent by transporting coal from Mahanadi and Talchar coalfields in Odisha to Punjab via Mundra in Gujarat.
A combination of land and sea routes was requested by the Power Ministry last week to transport 10-15 percent of coal in Punjab, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra.
Due to logistical constraints of rail movement and an anticipated increase in coal demand during peak demand in April-May, this transport mechanism was devised.
In a letter to Power Minister RK Singh, chief patron of the All-India Power Engineers’ Federation (AIPEF) Padamjit Singh argued that adding an additional burden of coal transportation through the RSR mode makes no sense. According to him, coal should only be transported by rail in Punjab.
Due to mercury levels rising and increased industry demand, coal demand will be higher this summer. A mandatory coal stock of 24 days has not been maintained by Punjab. “The stock at Lehra Mohabbat and Ropar thermal plants is less than three days,” said AIPEF spokesperson VK Gupta.
Bhagwant Mann had written to the Centre on December 8, 2022, seeking exemption from lifting coal through the RSR mode and providing 100 percent coal by direct rail. Additionally, the CM requested supplying coal from the Pachhwara Central coal mine to Talwandi Sabo and Rajpura thermal plants without any transfer limit of 50%.
In order for a freight train to reach Talwandi Sabo thermal plant, it takes four to five days (1,900 km). As part of the RSR mode, coal will be transported 1,700-1,800 km by rail in addition to 4,360 km by sea and it will take 25 days. According to a former chief engineer of Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL), this will increase power charges.
Consumers will ultimately bear the higher costs, said a top official at PSPCL.