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South India’s utilities feeling the pinch on coal allocation

Faced with acute shortage of power, the five southern states will press the Centre to ensure adequate coal allocation, particularly to the generating stations in the public sector, in line with the performance of the power utilities.

At the southern zonal council meeting involving chief ministers of five southern states on Friday, the states will collectively impress upon Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, who will preside the meet, the need to allocate coal blocks to the state’s thermal power projects.

They will also ask the Centre to expedite work on the north-south power corridor to ensure transmission of power from northern states to the southern states. Because of the absence of a direct corridor, we are not able to get power from North India. Only 40 per cent of power requirement has come to Karnataka because of the absence of the corridor,” energy minister Shobha Karandlaje said.

The situation of coal stocks is so critical that about 14 out of 31 power plants in south India have super critical coal stocks. This is happening at a time when states are reeling under power shortages. Recently, Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa’s had sent an SOS to the PM for urgent coal allocation as the state faces a demand-supply gap of 4,000 MW – the highest in the southern region.

Karnataka too has demanded a supply of additional one lakh tonnes of coal for three power projects in Chhattisgarh, Yadlapur, and Yermarus. We have asked the Centre to increase the power allocation to Karnataka because the state is getting only 1674 MW, while our neighbouring states Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh are getting more than 3000 MW. Hopefully our CM Jagadish Shettar will take up this issue at the Friday’s meeting,” said energy minister Shobha Karandlaje

I had met the union coal minister thrice in the last two years seeking coal linkage to tide over the present power crisis by increasing power generation. On all three occasions, I returned empty handed,” she rued.

But why the states are suffering? The primary reason for this, according to state energy officials is because only coal India is authorized to meet the demands of states. For long, CIL did not have the money required to open new mines and the environmental hurdles made their job even tougher.

The solution lies in ending CIL’s monopoly and bringing in private producers and distributors. The Centre must also ensure that different ministries like coal, power, energy and oil work in coordination to create proper plans to ensure smooth supply of coal’ the minister said.

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