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Using imported coal: Atma Nirbhar Bharat 'on hold' to help vested business interests

By Shankar Sharma*
The Power Minister has said that power tariff to rise 60-70 paise per unit for blending imported coal. This when energy consumption has jumped about 25 per cent, and peak demand has also risen by 15 per cent in the last one year.
Is it difficult to imagine the overall impact on our economy, especially on the poor and vulnerable sections of our society, if this trend of enormous annual growth in electricity demand continues even for a few years?
The vested business interests may be rubbing their hands with glee over the possible profits from coal imports; and the economists and bureaucrats may be happy to see the "good" growth in our economy, as measured only by the steep and unsustainable increase in energy demand growth. But what happens to the commodity prices linked to tariff increase of 60-70 paise per unit?
If the omissions and commissions by the central and state governments allow/encourage the electricity demand growth of this size every year even for the next 4-5 years (let us not forget the growth target of $ 5-10 trillion in the next few years), the same people may not be as happy as they are now; because it will be almost impossible to meet such a high demand growth without seriously impacting all other sectors of our economy.
"We have asked power plants to blend 10 per cent imported coal to avoid blackout as domestic coal production is not enough.": the minister has said.
It was only 2-3 years ago the ministers of the same goverment who were first saying that import of coal will be stopped, and next they talked about exporting coal to Bangladesh. Now the domestic coal production is not enough; but the authorities seem to be happy about the massive growth in the demand.
Even if we ignore deleterious impacts on many sector so for our economy, what will be the fate of Atma Nirbhar Bharat, if we have to import a lot more coal and other fossil fuels?
It is impossible to notice any rationality or cohesiveness in such ad-hoc policies. A diligently prepared national energy policy could have have helped to minimise such inconsistencies. But no one seems to be bothered about such coherent and strategic policies.
---
*Power & Climate Policy Analyst

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