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Indonesian shock for Indian power plants

P B Jayakumar  |  Mumbai 

India’s ambitious plans to generate an additional 180,000 Mw of power in the next seven years will face hurdles if Indonesia, the second largest supplier of thermal coal, goes ahead with plans to cap coal exports to serve domestic demand.

Bambang Setiawan, director general for coal, minerals and geothermal energy at the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, Indonesia, said last week that the government proposes to cap coal exports at around 150 million tonnes (mt) a year in a bid to guarantee supplies for domestic power plants. This will be part of domestic market obligation regulations that will come into effect this year.

That’s bad for at least a third of the upcoming Indian power projects that hope to run their plants using imported coal, mainly from Indonesia.  Leading power sector players such as Tata Power, Reliance Power and GMR Energy have already acquired coal mines in Indonesia. In the last two years, almost all power project developers like state-owned National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), Essar Power, Adani power, JSW Energy, Indiabulls Power and Lanco Infratech are scouting for coal mines in Indonesia, to fuel some of their proposed power projects.

Two of the four 4,000 Mw ultra mega power projects (UMPP)s awarded by the government — Mundra of Tata Power and Reliance Power's Krishnapatanam, are entirely dependent on imported coal.

 "It is estimated that developers of about 25,000 Mw of proposed power projects are planning to import coal from that country. This is expected to go up when more power projects come up," said Sanjay Sethi, executive director, Kotak Investment Banking.

Indonesia, which is expected to soon topple Australia as the largest coal exporter, is the most preferred destination for Indian players for its proximity to the country, which means lower freight charges.

The quality of Indonesian coal is also much better than Indian coal. The calorific value (which means production of energy) of Indonesian coal ranges between 5,000 and 6,000 kilo calories per kilogram (kcl/kg); for Indian coal it is only 3,000-3,500 kcl/kg.

are, however, playing down the problem. "Out of our entire portfolio of about 34,000 Mw of power projects, only the Krishnapatanam UMPP is dependent on imported coal. It requires only 13 to 14 mt a year and the impact will be minimal," said a top Reliance Power executive.  The Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG) company had acquired three coal mines in Indonesia with total reserves of two billion tonne.

Tata Power, which owns 30 per cent in Indonesian coal major Bumi Resources, is planning to use imported coal for the Mundra UMPP and the 2,400 Mw Dehrand power project in coastal Maharashtra. Its plans are to source 10.1 mt a year with 20 per cent plus or minus every year from Bumi Resources. 

“We have to wait and watch the move, as this may force Indian to focus more on other coal markets such as Mozambique, South Africa or Australia. Our capacity addition programme is not mainly dependent on imported coal,” said R V Shahi, former Union power secretary and one of the architects of India's ambitious capacity addition plans.

An Essar Power spokesperson said out of the 4,650 Mw of projects in its basket, only a 1,200 Mw power project coming up in Gujarat is dependent on imported coal. “We are exploring various countries, including Indonesia, to get fuel linkage for this project,” he said.

The Indian power sector is expected to face a shortage of 74 mt of coal by 2012, according to data from the Central Electricity Authority (CEA).

The Indian power sector is expected to face a shortage of 74 mt of coal by 2012, according to data from the Central Electricity Authority. The  shortage during the current fiscal may be about 40 mt as Coal India is expected is supply less than 300 mt, during the current fiscal.

Out of the 78,700 Mw capacity addition target under the 11th plan, close to 59,700 Mw is to come from thermal power sector.

Indonesia’s demand for coal will increase significantly in the coming years as power plants from the government’s 10,000 Mw electricity crash program would begin operations by 2011. 

Indonesia’s coal production this year is targeted at 230 mt and of this as much as 161.5 mt are up for exports to various countries, mainly to India and China, said the Indonesian official.

First Published: Wed, October 21 2009. 00:58 IST