* 26 of 100 coal-based power plants have stocks for 4 days
* 44 plants have stocks for less than a week - minister
* Thermal coal imports set to jump 14 pct in 2014 -traders
(Adds details on coal imports, weak rains)
By Krishna N Das
NEW DELHI, July 8 Nearly half of India's
coal-fired power plants have only enough stocks to last a week
or less, a shortage that could become critical and drive up
thermal coal imports by 14 percent as weak monsoon rains are
expected to cut output from hydropower.
State behemoth Coal India, the world's largest
coal miner, has failed to raise its output fast enough to meet
demand, and millions of Indians still go without power.
Blackouts are frequent, something new Prime Minister
Narendra Modi is keen to fix, but that would require increasing
coal shipments from Indonesia, Australia and South Africa.
Shipments of thermal coal, used in power generation, could
rise about 14 percent to 152 million tonnes this year, according
to commodities trader mjunction, a joint venture of Steel
Authority of India Ltd and Tata Steel.
A New Delhi-based trader, whose firm imports mainly from
Indonesia for power companies in India, said his clients have
already asked for more shipments as poor rains will force
farmers to use more power to run their irrigation equipment.
"On the one hand you have less hydro electricity, and on the
other you have more demand from the agricultural sector," said
the trader, who did not want to be named as he is not authorised
to talk to media.
Coal is used to fire more than half of India's electricity,
while power from dams accounts for about a fifth.
With India's weather office expecting below-average monsoon
rains this year and private forecaster Skymet forecasting a 60
percent chance of a drought, however, more coal could be needed
to make up for lower-than-normal hydropower output.
Weak monsoon rains contributed to one of the world's worst
blackouts in 2012, when hundreds of millions of Indians were
left without power. (reut.rs/1tiqzBC)
Power Minister Piyush Goyal on Monday urged power companies
to raise thermal imports after saying that 26 out of 100
coal-based power plants in India had "super critical coal
stocks" - or only enough to meet requirements for less than four
A total of 44 plants, including the super critical ones,
have "critical coal stocks" - only sufficient for less than a
week - with the majority of these in the state of Maharashtra,
the home of India's financial capital Mumbai.
"India's coal imports will continue to rise considering the
fact that there are still a lot of new power plants coming up,"
said Viresh Oberoi, chief executive of mjunction.
The new plants will need coal, and since domestic supply to
the plants is guaranteed only up to 60 percent of their total
requirement, they will have to buy more imported coal to operate
at optimum levels, he said.
India is already the world's third-largest coal importer
despite sitting on the fifth largest reserves, mainly due to
delays in securing environmental clearances to add new mines and
to build facilities to transport coal from remote mines.
Coal-fired power plants are expected to see demand of 551.60
million tonnes this fiscal year ending March 31, but domestic
supply will be limited to 466.89 million, Goyal said.
In April-June, Coal India supplied 88.66 million tonnes to
power companies against a target of 101.61 million.
Thermal coal imports rose as a result, shooting up 11
percent from a year earlier to 14.77 million tonnes in June,
according to mjunction.
(Editing by Tom Hogue)