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India Minister: Difficult to Meet Coal Demand

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NEW DELHI–It looks like people in India will have to get used to blackouts, as the country’s coal minister said it would be difficult for the domestic coal industry to keep up with demand from power plants.

Asia’s third-largest economy relies on coal-fired power plants for the majority of its electricity needs. Increasingly stringent environmental regulations have made it difficult to raise output of the pollutive fuel, while power producers are reluctant to turn to imported coal because it is difficult for them to pass on the costs to consumers in a country where around 40% of the population get by on less than two U.S. dollars a day.

India needs to speed up environmental clearances for new mines and ease the process for companies seeking to acquire land for coal mining, federal coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal said Wednesday, or the lack of coal supply will worsen.

“The government granted coal blocks to private power producers [in the past two decades] with the hope that it would raise output, but that doesn’t seem to have helped,” Mr. Jaiswal told The Wall Street Journal in an interview.

India is faced with a crippling shortage of power to run its factories and light its homes. Several cities in the country have daily blackouts of up to six hours, with shortages worsening in summer months when malls, offices and homes run air-conditioners.

Although the government said private companies could mine coal in earmarked areas to meet their needs, very few such mines are in operation and state-run Coal India Ltd. remains the monopoly commercial coal miner in the country.

“Coal India alone can’t meet all the rising demand for coal in the coming years,” Mr. Jaiswal said.

However, private companies have faced delays in getting environmental clearances, including additional regulatory clearances required for mining in a forested area, and difficulties in acquiring land have prevented them from mining in the blocks allocated to them over the last two decades.

Since 1993, 195 mining leases have been granted, but “only 25 to 30 such private mines have started operations to date,” he added.

“There have been some improvements in the process of getting environmental clearances in the last six months, but more needs to be done. Ultimately, a balance has to be brought between environmental concerns and mining,” said Mr. Jaiswal.

Coal-fired plants make up more than half of India’s total electricity generation capacity of 210 gigawatts, and power companies are often unable to ramp up production or operate plants at full capacity because of a lack of coal.

Despite the lack of domestically produced coal, there are several new coal-fired power stations under construction in India. Wind and solar energy form a very small portion of India’s power mix, gas-fired plants have failed to take off due to shortage of the fuel, and nuclear power generation has yet to take off in a major way.

Unless private companies are given the green light to start operations in their captive mines, coal imports will likely continue to rise, Mr. Jaiswal.

The country will likely have an estimated coal shortage of 192 million metric tons for this financial year ending March 31, and traders expect imports of around 140 million tons to help narrow the gap.

However, power producers are loath to rely on imported coal, which cost 40%-50% more than domestically produced coal. India’s power producers face difficulties in passing on the higher costs to consumers, because state governments have a large say in tariff hikes by state-run utilities as higher prices can stoke inflation.

“In the next several years, power tariffs are bound to rise, just as prices of other commodities are rising. Higher power tariffs will allow private producers to import more coal,” Mr. Jaiswal said.

Courtesy: THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

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Power sector regulator CERC admits Sasan Power’s petition seeking tariff revision

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NEW DELHI: Power sector regulator CERC today admitted a plea of Reliance Power’s subsidiary for upward revision of tariff from its under-construction Sasan ultra-mega power project in Madhya Pradesh.

Sasan Power Ltd, the special purpose vehicle ofReliance PowerBSE 0.76 % set up to build this 4,000 MW project, filed a petition with CERC seeking tariff revision for the plant on account of rise in user charges.

The Commission today admitted their petition, but the date of hearing is yet to be decided.

Reliance Power bagged this project in 2007 in an international tender quoting the lowest ‘levelised’ tariff of Rs 1.19 per unit for 25 years.

As per the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) between the developer of the project and procurer of electricity, the company can approach CERC for any Change in Law.

Meanwhile, the Reliance Power’s another special purpose vehicle (SPV), Coastal Andhra Power Ltd, also petitioned CERC seeking revision in tariff of its 4,000 MW Krishnapatnam Ultra Mega Power Project in Andhra Pradesh.

On this case, CERC has said that the maintainability of the petition will be decided in a month’s time.

It has also asked Reliance Power to provide written submission to CERC saying that it will withdraw their case in the Delhi High Court.

Coastal Andhra Power Ltd, an SPV of Reliance Power to execute the Krishnapatnam project, filed a petition in the Delhi High Court saying that the project was unviable due to changes in the Indonesian law that made coal very costly.

In a similar case of Coastal Gujarat Power Ltd, a subsidiary of Tata Power, which is executing the 4,000 MWMundraBSE 0.81 % project in Gujarat, has also been asked by CERC to file written submission regarding the case with the Commission.

Tata PowerBSE -1.35 % petitioned CERC, last year, seeking higher tariff for its Mundra plant as changes in Indonesian fuel pricing regulations made the project unviable at existing tariffs.

PFC ( Power Finance CorporationBSE 2.61 %) which is the nodal agency for the ultra mega power projects in the country, has awarded four such projects of Reliance Power have bagged three — Krishnapatnam (Andhra Pradesh) and Tilaiya ( Jharkhand) apart from Sasan. Tata Power is executing the fourth 4,000 MW Mundra UMPP in Gujarat.

Courtesy: The Economic Times

Coal scam: ED arrests Madhu Koda aide Anil Bastawade after his return to India

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New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate has arrested former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda’s aide Anil Bastawade. He was brought back from Jakarta on Tuesday night where he was arrested on January 21 on an Interpol notice.

Bastawade will be flown to Ranchi on Wednesday. He is an accused in a money laundering scam. The CBI has alleged that he siphoned off over Rs 250 crore from the Madhu Koda government to pay for coal mine contracts.

A Red Corner Notice (RCN) against him was issued by CBI on the request of the ED which is probing charges of alleged money laundering against the 48-year-old businessman.

Courtesy: THE TIMES OF INDIA

Coal scam: Madhu Koda aide Anil Bastawade brought back to India

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New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate on Tuesday brought back former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda’s aide, Anil Bastawade to India. The alleged mining scam kingpin has been accused in a money laundering case.

He was detained in Jakarta on January 21 after an Interpol notice.

The ED had sought and got his custody from an Indonesian court. The CBI alleges that he siphoned off nearly Rs 4,000 crore from the Madhu Koda government to pay for coal mine contracts.

Courtesy: THE TIMES OF INDIA

Indian iron-ore chaos little help to local mining

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SOUTH Africa is not well placed to take advantage of the steep fall in Indian iron-ore output, but there are hopes there could be a boost for prices of the key steel-making ingredient.

South Africa is now the third-largest supplier of iron ore to China, the world’s leading steel manufacturer, leapfrogging India.

Indian authorities have introduced measures to bring its chaotic iron-ore mining sector under control, with sales to China falling about 55% to 33-million tons last year.

South African iron-ore sales rose 12% last year to 40.6-million tons, a distant third behind Australia, with 351-million tons, and Brazil.

“There is a benefit for us, but the problem is we are constrained by logistics,” Andre Joubert, CE of African Rainbow Minerals’ (ARM’s) ferrous division, said on Monday. “The opportunity is there for us, but it will be about diversifying our market a bit and not really increasing the volume flow in the immediate future .”

The iron ore railway line between Sishen and Saldanha, which has the world’s longest trains, is busy with a ramp-up of capacity to 62-million tons a year, a target that should be reached next year. The aim is to haul 59-million tons on the 860km line this year.

“Things are going well on that line and we are very pleased with developments,” said Transnet Freight Rail spokesman Mike Asefovitz. Studies were under way into ramping up capacity on the line to 83-million tons.

“Based on what we know about the ore bodies in the Northern Cape, they are not really conducive to another mega mine,” Mr Joubert said.

There was no question of taking advantage of reduced output from its strike-hit neighbour, Sishen Iron Ore mine, which is owned by Anglo American subsidiary Kumba Iron Ore.

The unprotected strike in October and the slow ramp-up of production after the strike resulted in the loss of 5-million tons of iron ore. Kumba exported 9-million tons in the fourth quarter, a 28% fall quarter on quarter.

Mr Joubert said the Khumani mine was working at capacity and did not have extra material to rail to the coast. The mine is jointly owned by ARM, which is chaired by billionaire Patrice Motsepe, and Assore.

Kumba raised production 4% to 43-million tons last year despite the weak fourth quarter.

South Africa’s two biggest iron-ore mining companies, Kumba and ARM, are both in closed periods ahead of financial results due out next month, meaning they could not comment fully on their exports to China and operational performances last year.

ARM Ferrous operates the 14-million-ton-a-year Khumani mine for the export market and the 2-million-ton-a-year Beeshoek mine for domestic steel clients.

Courtesy: Business Day

Green tribunal sets March 1 deadline for panel report

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THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The principal bench of the National Green Tribunal has directed theMinistry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to place the report of Kasturirangan committee, which is reviewing the Western Ghats Expert Ecology Panel (WGEEP) report, by March 1.

The green tribunal has also directed the chief secretaries of all states to cooperate with the Kastrurirangan expert committee. The order came on a public interest litigation filed by Goa Foundation with regard to the conservation of Western Ghats and implementation of the WGEEP report.

The MoEF, in its submission, said it had already undertaken the process for finalization of Dr Madhav Gadgil’s WGEEP report. “We have invited the states, general public and ministries concerned to make their suggestions and objections upon consideration of the report. The report shall be finalized soon and the final report is likely to be submitted by February 16, 2013, whereafter it shall be submitted to the tribunal,” it said.

The ministry had also sought a reasonable time to file the report on or before the next date of hearing. The PIL was filed in July last year and the green tribunal, in an interim order, had directed MoEF to take note of the WGEEP report and take a decision only in consonance with the provisions made in the report.

“The interim order and the latest order asking the MoEF to submit theKasturirangan committee report within a deadline gives us some hope that the WGEEP report will be implemented soon. This report has many positive aspects that help conservation of eco fragile regions along the Western Ghats,” said Dr Latha Anantha, director of River Research Centre and one of the petitioners in the case.

She said the MoEF had not made the WGEEP report public for many months and it was only after an RTI order passed by central information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi that the report was made public last year. States like Kerala had raised objection against the zonation process done by the WGEEP and said 36 of the 63 taluks will come under some kind of zoning.

Taking stock of the objections of various states, the Kasturirangan committee has now recommended reducing the grid size of eco sensitive zones along the Western Ghats. The committee is of the view that the new gradation will not in any way dilute the original intention of conservation of core forest areas and buffer zones, but will instead take a more administrable approach, balancing both ecological conservation and community development.

“Now we need to see know how many grids will remain in an ESZ and how much it will impact the eco fragile regions in the Western Ghats,” Dr Latha said.

Courtesy: THE TIMES OF INDIA

CPUC Approves Sale of Power from 150 MW Rice Solar Energy Project

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SolarReserve, a U.S. developer of large-scale solar power projects, received unanimous approval from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to sell power from its 150-megawatt solar project under an amended 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E). The Rice Solar Energy Project will be the first large-scale solar project in the state to include energy storage capabilities.

Located in eastern Riverside County, the Rice Solar Energy Project represents in excess of $750 million of direct investment in California and is expected to generate more than 5,300 direct, indirect and induced jobs across the supply chain in some of the state’s hardest hit economies over the 24-month construction period. Construction activities on site are expected to peak at more than 670 workers. With eight hours of full power energy storage, the Rice Project will diversify California’s energy mix, generating more than 450,000 megawatt hours annually of reliable, clean energy – enough to power more than 65,000 homes during peak electricity periods.

The project has received full environmental permits, including its California Energy Commission (CEC) license and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) approvals, and will be located on privately owned and previously disturbed land in the Sonoran Desert. The project will utilize a dry-cooled system to significantly minimize water usage in the desert location resulting in less than 20 percent of the water used per kilowatt of electricity produced by conventional coal or nuclear facilities. Financing activities are underway, and the project is expected to break ground in early of 2014 with commercial operation scheduled for mid-2016.

In its decision, the Commissioners sited the need for reliable, renewable energy resources such as SolarReserve’s U.S.-developed solar energy storage technology in order to enhance grid stability as well as to facilitate the integration of intermittent renewable energy resources such as wind, photovoltaics and direct steam solar thermal. In their 5-0 unanimous vote to support the amended power contract with PG&E, the CPUC Commissioners stated:

“In my personal view, projects like the Rice Solar Project will be important to demonstrate that we can firm and shape intermittent renewables with clean technology, not just with fossil technology.” (Commissioner Ferron)

“This particular project will also offer storage, which is a key component, and make it therefore hopefully more flexible in terms of being able to help us support integration. I look forward to this technology coming into California and helping us with renewable integration.” (Commissioner Sandoval)

“Eight to 10 hours of fully dispatchable storage is quite impressive and offers significant benefits to the system that we don’t yet know how to quantify fully, but there’s definitely value there. There is a similar project reaching completion in Nevada, and hopefully this is the first of many.” (Commissioner Florio)

“I think technology diversity is critical for risk diversification, and this project brings that to the energy mix.” (Commissioner Peterman)

“This project will have a very minimal local environmental impact because it’s dry-cooled and sited on disturbed land. The PPA allows PG&E to largely control dispatch of the plant, so that PG&E can maximize the value of the plant’s output.” (Commission President Peevey)

“The CPUC made it very clear that our ability to store energy was the key factor in approving the amended Rice contract,” said SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith . “SolarReserve’s market leading technology is a true alternative to conventional generators and can provide firm and reliable electricity as needed by the utility or system operator, day and night. This capability will be crucial as California progresses towards its 33 percent renewable target. We are also making tremendous strides in exporting this proven U.S. technology worldwide to markets in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, and our projects in Nevada and California help establish the U.S. as an innovation leader in alternate energy.”

SolarReserve secured a 25-year power purchase agreement for the Rice Solar Energy Project with PG&E in December of 2009. The contract was amended in late 2011 to accommodate a modification in the transmission connection of the plant and a revised commercial operations date.

Courtesy: cleantech.com

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