NEW DELHI, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Coal imports by Indian power
producers surged 31 percent to 66 million tonnes in
April-January compared with the same period a year earlier, the
power minister said on Thursday, as coal-based generation rose
but domestic coal shortage continued.
India's rush to add power capacity after years of
under-investment has forced electricity generators including
NTPC Ltd to import coal heavily as state-run monopoly
Coal India Ltd has struggled to meet demand.
In April-January power producers imported 31 million tonnes
of coal to blend them with lower quality varieties and about 35
million tonnes for plants that depend exclusively on coal from
overseas, Power Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said.
India's coal-based power generation rose 8 percent to 587.64
billion kilowatt hour during the period from a year earlier.
Power companies are likely to import 82 million tonnes this
fiscal year ending March 31, he added.
This was the first government data released on coal imports
so far this fiscal year.
Research firm OreTeam told Reuters last month that total
coal imports by industries such as power, steel, cement and
others rose 21 percent to 152 million tonnes in 2013 and that
shipments could rise to 170 million tonnes this year.
Top suppliers Indonesia, Australia and South Africa are the
biggest beneficiaries of India's growing demand for coal, with
Coal India estimating that India's coal shortage would hit 350
million tonnes in 2016-17.
India is trying to push Coal India, which accounts for about
80 percent of the country's total production, to raise output
after the firm recorded six straight years of below-target
output due to difficulties in obtaining environmental approvals,
lack of railway access and other issues.
(Reporting by Krishna N Das, editing by David Evans)