Asansol, March 7: The Eastern Coalfields Limited has decided to halve coal supply to the state-run power-generating agency from next month because of non-payment of dues.
This may lead to power deficit in the districts during peak summer, starting April.
“We are worried. The outstanding amount from the power utility companies to whom we supply coal is Rs 2,400 crore. We need to recover the money soon. Of this, the West Bengal Power Development Corporation Limited (WBPDCL) owes us Rs 900 crore,” said Niladri Roy, the technical secretary of ECL, a sick Coal India subsidiary that is struggling to turn around by 2015.
“If we do not get any payment, we will be forced to reduce supply by half from next month. We may eventually have to stop supplying coal to WBPDCL,” Roy said.
He said ECL had not yet stopped supplying coal to the power utilities because the company had the target of mining 33 million tonnes by March 31. “We can’t stock mined coal as it runs the risk of catching fire or getting damaged,” Roy added.
WBPDCL officials said the utility could not make payments to ECL in January and February. “We admit that we could not make payments in January and February. This usually happens because of year-end pressure. We will repay the dues from April,” a senior WBPDCL official said. Another official said the dues had accrued over two years.
Sources in the power department contested ECL’s claim of Rs 900 crore in dues. “The amount is inflated. It is unlikely to be more than Rs 500 crore. The dues accumulate towards the end of every fiscal and is cleared over the first two quarters of the next financial year. ECL is aware of the payment process,” an official said.
According to the sources, the demand for electricity during evening peak hour in summer is expected to rise to nearly 4,000MW. This, however, does not include CESC areas, including Calcutta and its adjoining places.
“WBPDCL generates nearly 3,000MW daily in peak hours in summer. About 1,000MW is procured from central agencies such as the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and the Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC). If there is a drop in coal supply, it may lead to a deficit,” a power department official said.
A WBPDCL official said the daily requirement of coal during summer was 50,000 to 55,000 tonnes. “ECL supplies 10,000 to 12,000 tonnes of this.” The official said that since January, ECL had doubled its supply because it was mining coal to meet its target.
“ECL usually increases its supply during the end of the financial year because it has to clear its stocks. We already have a reserve of 8.5 lakh tonnes of coal at our five plants, which is going to last two weeks. But power production will be hampered if ECL stops coal supply,” said Bhabani Shankar Bose, the deputy general manager (coal) of WBPDCL.
A power department official said ECL “dumps coal on the utilities in the last quarter of every financial year”. “We are obligated to help ECL stay afloat following a request from the Union coal ministry.”
A senior ECL official said the non-payment had hit the company at a time it was struggling to come out of the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction, to which sick units are referred for possible revival.