After the Supreme Court on Monday termed all coal blocks allocations between 1993 and 2011 illegal, the fate of several on-going and proposed thermal power projects in Odisha seem to hang in balance.

Independent Power Producers (IPPs) have already invested nearly Rs. 30,000 crore in the State, which during the past decade signed memoranda of understanding (MoU) with 29 IPPs with a combined generation capacity of over 37,000 MW. The State was promised investments of more than Rs. 1,00,000 crore in the sector.

Three major IPPs have part-commissioned their projects, while at least three others are likely to commission their projects in the next seven to 10 months. As many as 17 IPPs are going through their land acquisition process.

Since 1993, as many as 36 coal blocks in Odisha have been allocated. Of these, 32 are in favour of private players, while public sector units have got four blocks.

“IPPs had chosen Odisha as their destination, either to set up pit-head projects or minimise coal transportation cost. Getting captive coal block was always uppermost in the minds of promoters. Under the changing scenario, especially in wake of Supreme Court verdict, these promoters are surely staring at an uncertain future,” said a former officer of Industrial Promotion and Invesment Corporation of Odisha Limited.

He said promoters of projects were mobilising all resources to get coal linkage for their projects.

The Odisha government was desperate to corner coal blocks for State-based thermal power projects for which MoUs were signed. It had even objected to allocation of coal blocks to PSUs of other States. According to State government, the additional requirement of non-coking coal for the ongoing coal-based projects in the State is around 250 MTPA, for which additional coal-reserve of about 10,000 million tonnes (250 million tonne X 40 years) is required.

Even to meet 70 per cent of the coal requirement of the ongoing projects in the State, 7,000 million tonnes of coal reserve is required.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had time and again pressed for allocation of coal blocks for power projects in the State.

Mr. Patnaik even demanded allocation of coal blocks in favour of Odisha Mining Corporation saying it had vast experience and core competency in mining sector and was capable of developing high capacity coal projects, with state-of-the-art technology. “This mining PSU of Odisha should be allocated at least 7,000 MT of coal reserves in Odisha coalfields, through the government dispensation route.”

Odisha has proven coal reserve of 51,571 million tonnes, which constitutes 24 per cent of India’s total coal deposit.