India’s coal ministry wants power plants to keep buying coal despite weak demand

India`s coal ministry wants electricity generators to keep buying coal, despite a steep fall in power demand due to a nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Over three-fourths of the electricity generated in India is coal-fired.

Anil Kumar Jain, the secretary of India`s Ministry of Coal, last week wrote to Sanjiv Nandan Sahai, the top bureaucrat in the power ministry, to ensure power generators do not cut back intakes of coal from state-run Coal India Ltd.

“I request the Ministry of Power to prevail upon central gencos, NTPC Ltd and its JVs, state gencos and independent power producers not to restrict intake of coal from Coal India and Singreni Collieries,” Jain said in the April 3 letter, which was seen by Reuters.

A Ministry of Power spokesman did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.

Electricity consumption slumped 21.3% in the first two weeks of the lockdown ended April 7, compared with the first three weeks of March, according to government data.

Utilities` stocks at mines and miners` inventories have hit record highs due to low demand, pushing many power plants to avoid buying more coal, Coal India officials say.

“This is understandable but worrisome,” Jain wrote.

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