India May Import Less Coal Than Target; Hydro Power Output Rises

India’s power-station coal imports may be 24 percent less than estimated by the nation’s Planning Commission after the most rainfall in three years boosted electricity generation from water, reducing demand for the fuel.

The South Asian nation may import 34 million to 35 million metric tons of coal in the year ending March 31, I.A. Khan, a joint adviser at the Commission, said in an interview in New Delhi. The body that sets growth and investment targets in India had forecast in April that 45 million tons may be imported during the financial year.

“Hydro-power generation so far this year has been above normal due to good monsoons,” Khan said in a Dec. 16 interview. “That has taken the load off coal substantially.”

India uses coal to fire more than half of its power plants, and the government estimates demand for the fuel in India may more than triple to 2 billion tons in the next two decades. Asia’s second-fastest growing major economy needs to increase generation capacity 20 percent to 200,000 megawatts by 2012 to sustain expansion, according to the power ministry.

Hydro-power output climbed 5.8 percent to 83,235 million units in the eight months ended Nov. 30, according to the Central Electricity Authority, a body that advises the government on power policy and sets technical standards for the industry. Generating electricity by using water from rivers and dams to move turbines accounts for 22 percent of the nation’s installed capacity.

The output of hydro-electric plants exceeded the government’s target by 0.5 percent in the eight months ended Nov. 30, while generation by coal-fired power stations was 4 percent less than planned, according to the Central Electricity Authority.

“Usually, hydro generation is around 80 to 90 percent of the target,” said Khan. Overall power demand fell during the monsoon, he said.

Coal Stockpiles

Power plants in the country had coal stockpiles of 12.8 million tons, equivalent to 11 days of supplies, as of Dec. 13. There were 25 plants with stockpiles of less than seven days, which is considered critical, according to data from the Central Electricity Authority.

India produces 530 million tons of coal a year and imports about 67 million tons, Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal said Sept 24. The country’s power plants may import 60 million tons of coal in the financial year starting April 1, Power Secretary P. Uma Shankar said Dec. 9.

India received 911 millimeters (35.9 inches) of rainfall between June 1 and Sept. 29, exceeding the 50-year average of 889.2 millimeters, according to data from the India Meteorological Department. That’s the heaviest since 2007.

Editors: John Chacko, Amit Prakash.

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