Coal output: billion-tonne target within sight

March 09, 2015 02:15 am | Updated November 16, 2021 05:14 pm IST - Chennai:

Piyush Goyal says the government has aggressiveplans for renewable energy. Photo: Bijoy Ghosh

Piyush Goyal says the government has aggressiveplans for renewable energy. Photo: Bijoy Ghosh

Coal production in the last nine months has increased by 7 per cent, no mean feat if you consider the rate of growth in recent years, Piyush Goyal, Minister for Power, Coal and New and Renewable Energy, said here on Sunday.

Speaking to corporate leaders at “Breakfast with BusinessLine ”, he said it was easy to dismiss this as insignificant, but the difference was stark considering that the compounded annual growth rate was just 1.5 per cent over the past five years and 3-4 per cent in the best years.

Observing that the media often failed to take note of such positive developments, he said power generation also had increased — thermal by 13 per cent and overall by 11 per cent.

Business Line editor Mukund Padmanabhan led the interaction with Mr. Goyal and moderated it.

The Power Minister said it was during a long review with Coal India officials that he had, in a moment of frustration, come up with a coal production target of one billion tonnes in the next five years. “An off-the-cuff comment became our target,” he said. Coal India had achieved 925 million tonnes, which gave him the confidence that even a billion tonnes was possible.

The bigger challenge was where to use the coal. He said he had persuaded the Railways to provide 25 additional rakes to move coal in March. He had requested the government-owned NTPC to lift additional quantities of coal so that stocking capacity at mines was freed up, enabling them to produce more.

Referring to the proposal to have five new ultra-mega power projects (UMPPs), each of 4,000-MW capacity, he wondered whether it was worth pursuing the UMPPs that relied on imported coal. It was for the States to decide, especially coastal States such as Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Maharashtra, where the cost of transporting coal from mines was high.

His worry was how the one billion tonnes of coal that Coal India produced would be consumed. “I am trying to encourage more and more domestic coal UMPPs. There may be some possibilities of UMPPs on the coast through imported coal, but we have to be careful that we don’t get into a situation like the Tatas in Mundra,” Mr. Goyal said.

In the past fortnight, he said the Cabinet had cleared a proposal as a test case where the NTPC would bundle about 1,500 MW of unallocated thermal power from the Central pool with solar power and market both together. This would increase the cost of thermal power a little.

Renewable energy

“We have planned a 5X growth in renewable energy in the next five years. It is an article of faith for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. India is much more conscious today and all of us recognise that we have to leave behind a cleaner and greener country as we move forward,” he said.

On the Bill to amend the Electricity Act, 2003, which has been tabled in the Lok Sabha, Mr. Goyal said he hoped it would be enacted in the second half of the Budget session. Asked about the reservations among some States to the amendment Bill, which separated carriage from content, he expressed confidence that they would see the wisdom in changes that would increase both competition and efficiency in the sector. “If one or two States come on board, I think the rest will follow under pressure from the public. This is exactly what happened in the case of VAT,” he said.

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