“India’s main obstacle in fulfilling its electricity needs lies not in the shortage of domestic thermal coal, but in delivering it to power plants.” In light of this statement, discuss the challenges faced in thermal power generation, suggest measure to address these challenges.


Due to electricity shortages in 2023 there is a need to understand India’s coal imports and the discourse around coal shortages in India.


In introduction highlight the paradox of ample coal availability versus delivery challenges impacting thermal power generation in India.

In Main body:

Address the challenges faced in thermal power generation like issues such as logistical constraints, uneven geographic distribution, outdated technologies etc.

Then suggest some measures needed like enhancements in rail and port infrastructure, advanced forecasting, diversification of energy sources etc.

In the Conclusion emphasize that overcoming logistical hurdles, not coal scarcity, is key to ensuring a reliable, efficient, and sustainable energy sector in India.


India’s energy sector faces a paradox where the availability of domestic thermal coal is ample, yet delivering this coal to power plants remains a formidable challenge. This situation underscores a significant logistical hurdle rather than a resource scarcity issue, impacting thermal power generation efficiency and reliability.

Challenges Faced in Thermal Power Generation

  • Logistical Constraints: Limited transportation infrastructure, particularly in railway networks, hampers the efficient movement of coal from mines to power plants.
    • The coal-rich regions of Central and Eastern India, like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha, face severe logistical challenges due to inadequate rail connectivity and infrastructure.
  • Uneven Geographic Distribution: Power plants located far from coal mines, unlike pit-head plants, suffer more from supply shortages due to greater logistical complexities and transportation costs.
  • Technological and Operational Limitations: relying on outdated mining technologies and practices, leading to inefficiencies and lower productivity. The lack of adoption of modern mining techniques affects the quality and quantity of coal extracted.
    • The use of surface miners, longwall mining technologies, and coal washing are not as prevalent as needed to enhance coal quality and reduce environmental impact.
  • Increased Demand and Weather Impacts: Fluctuating weather conditions and a growing economy have spiked electricity demand, putting additional pressure on coal supply chains during peak periods.
  • Reliance on Coal Imports: Despite domestic availability, coal imports adds to cost pressures and complicates supply chains, with a mandate for up to 6% import blending further complicating logistics and cost structures.
  • Regulatory and Policy Challenges: Ambiguities in regulatory advisories on coal imports and blending requirements lead to increased operational costs and complexities in supply management.
  • Environmental Concerns: Over-reliance on thermal power and coal imports raises environmental sustainability issues, complicating long-term energy planning.
    • Mining operations in Chhattisgarh’s Hasdeo Arand forest, one of the largest contiguous stretches of very dense forest in central India, have seen opposition and regulatory challenges due to environmental concerns.
  • Market Dynamics and Cost Pass-Through: The cost implications of coal imports and logistical inefficiencies often get passed to consumers, affecting electricity affordability and economic competitiveness.

Measures Needed:

  • Enhancing Rail and Port Infrastructure: Investing in railway expansions and port facilities to streamline coal transportation from mines to plants across the country.
  • Advanced Forecasting and Inventory Management: Implementing sophisticated forecasting tools and inventory management systems to predict demand spikes and manage coal supplies more efficiently.
  • Diversification of Energy Sources: Accelerating the adoption of renewable energy sources to reduce the thermal power sector’s over-dependence on coal.
  • Incentives for Domestic Coal Utilization: Encouraging power plants to utilize domestic coal through financial incentives and streamlined auction processes.
  • Technological Upgrades and Strengthening Supply Chain Resilience: Adopting advanced technologies for coal handling and transportation to reduce losses and enhance efficiency and developing alternative supply routes
  • Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs): Leveraging PPP models to invest in infrastructure and technology upgrades, enhancing the coal supply chain’s efficiency and reliability.

India’s challenge in meeting its electricity demand lies predominantly in the logistical hurdles associated with coal delivery, not in the availability of coal itself. Addressing challenges by implementing these measures, India can ensure a more reliable, efficient, and sustainable energy sector, capable of supporting the nation’s growing economic and environmental aspirations.

‘+1’ value addition:

  • Thermal power (coal, lignite, diesel, and gas) plants generate around 70% of India’s electricity, with coal being the main source of power, contributing over 86% of thermal power.
  • India is the third largest producer of coal in the world and the eighth largest importer. In 2016, India consumed 966,288,693 tons of coal, which is about 84.8% of the world’s total consumption. In addition, India imports 22% of its coal consumption.
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