Electricity consumption in India, currently at some 600TWh annually, is set to double by next decade.
The economy is passing through a difficult phase. Recent statistics have suggested a fall in industrial production to less than 5 per cent. Revised GDP projections have slipped to less than 6.5 per cent for this year. The electricity sector is facing problems with availability of coal.
According to the Central Electricity Authority (CEA), 100,000 MW of additional power generation will be required during the 12th Plan from 2012-2017 to meet the growing power demand if the economy is to grow at 9 per cent. Seventy per cent of this additional capacity generation is to be introduced through coal-based thermal power plants.
The most serious bottleneck in power generation is the shortage of coal. As per the Planning Commission statistics, the gap between the demand and supply of coal was 35 million tonnes at the end of 2007 and it is expected to be around 83 million tonnes at the end of this year. The shortage would have been even more had all the planned coal-based power plants been commissioned o—n time.
By 2017, the coal shortage is forecast to be 200 million tonnes, says the Planning Commission. The Government has admitted that the shortage of domestic/imported coal has affected thermal power generation, and some of the blame for this can be laid at the door of the Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, whose controversial policies have led to an immediate halt of mining activity in 2003 blocks, which had a potential capacity of over 600 million tonnes.