Coal India is striving to find its place in a greener world. The top pure-play miner of the black stuff is establishing new units to focus on solar and renewables. It’s a hedge against coal’s decline for an $11 billion company that’s key to India’s power needs.
The state-controlled extractor accounts for 80% of the dirty commodity dug up in the second-largest coal-consuming country. Most of it is used for power production. If power demand grows 6% each year, India’s annual coal requirement will rise to 1,250 million tonnes by 2030, the company estimates. That assumes Prime Minister Narendra Modi hits his ambitious goal of quadrupling power capacity from renewable energy to 450 gigawatts by then.
Coal India has some 116 major coal projects underway whose combined peak capacity will exceed its output in the year to March. But beyond the next decade or so, boss Pramod Agrawal admits the future of the commodity is limited.
Shareholders of Coal India have lost money over the past five years, even including dividends, while the Nifty 50 produced handsome returns. Though profitable, the company faces fresh wage hikes for some 300,000 employees and is owed growing sums from power producers, a problem made worse by Covid-19: Trade receivables were up almost 50% in the nine months to December.