India hikes coal import target again

In the face of the rising demand for coal by power plants, the government has once again been forced to raise its unrealistic import targets. It now says it will increase coal imports by 40 per cent, rather than the 15 per cent it had forecast a few days back.

''We have set a coal import target of 35 MT for power utilities in 2009-10, against the earlier planned 25 MT,'' said power secretary V S Sampath. He added that the heating capacity of imported coal is 50 per cent higher than that of domestic supplies and that the quantity shipped from overseas would be enough to meet the requirements.

Earlier this year, the government had raised the coal import target to 28.7 MT. The reworking of the target comes in view of the huge additional power generation capacity to be set up, mainly by private companies in the form of captive power plants.

Among the major state-run power-producing companies, the National Thermal Power Corp Ltd would import 12.5 MT coal next fiscal, against the previous target of 10 MT, according to R S Sharma, chairman and managing director of the company.

However, with barely a week left before the 2008-09 fiscal year ends, the utility has managed to ship in only about five million tonnes, against the eight million tonnes planned, which may be a pointer to the problems that lie ahead.

Most of NTPC's imports are likely to be from Indonesia and Australia. The power utility is set to commission two units of its Dadri thermal power station in UP, one unit each in Sipat and Korba (both in Chhattisgarh), and one in Jhajjar (Haryana).