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INTERVIEW: V K Arora, Chief Mentor, Karam Chand Thapar & Bros. (Coal Sales) Ltd.

Virendra shares his opinions on India's self-sufficiency goals, renewable energy, overcapacity, and railway system.

Coaltrans Conferences (CC):
Hi Virendra. Firstly, please can you explain a little about your current role and background?

V K Arora (VKA):
I am a Mining Engineer having graduated from Indian School of Mines, way back in 1961. Thereafter, I worked in the erstwhile coalmines belonging to the Thapar Group and also in a senior position in the nationalized sector, once the coal mines were nationalized, way back in 1973. Thereafter I worked as the President for the present company, KCT for a number of years. I retired about 2½ years ago and am presently working as Chief Mentor of the Group. KCT is the largest logistics company for handling coal. The volumes handled are about 50 MMT per annum and are catering to the requirements of all the major electricity boards, private power companies, steel and cement companies, etc. I am presently the President of Indian Coal Merchants’ Association and Chairman of Indian Mining Federation. I am also the Chairman of CII’s Mining & Construction Equipment Division. I have been regularly contributing to the various journals in regard to the problems faced by the consumers in receiving coal. I have also been contributing to the policy changes, as and when they have been adopted by the coal companies. The consultations are also with the Ministry of Coal, Coal India Ltd., Singareni Collieries Co. Ltd. and others.

A key aim of the government has been to reduce imports of coal in favour of domestically sourced coal. Do you think that India will ever be self-sufficient in coal? What is holding back greater progress?

VKA: Much as the government would like to replace import of coal by domestically sourced coal, perhaps it may not be possible. CIL has ambitious plans to increase the production from 620 MMT to 1000 MMT by 2022. SCCL would also increase the production from 60 MMT to 80 MMT. Another 500 MMT is expected from captive blocks recently auctioned. Despite their desire, there are going to be slippages in meeting these targets and the opportunities for import of coal would definitely continue for a much longer time than predicted by the government. In any case, coking coal imports would continue as usual because increase in coking coal production is still not being planned.

CC: Coal is facing increasing competition from solar and low-carbon energy sources in India. How do you think this competition will play out in the long-term? Is coal the solution for India’s energy needs?

VKA: Renewables, during the recent action have been able to come up with very competitive rates for supplying power. Wind, which was earlier producing power at Rs. 5/- to Rs. 6/- per Unit has now come down to Rs. 2.45 per Unit. Solar is around Rs. 2/- per Unit. A large capacity of solar and wind of about 160000 MW is expected to go on-stream in the next 4 years. Coal will continue to be the backbone of each power supplying company for the next many years to take care of the base load.  The distribution system is still not geared to absorb such levels of renewables into the system. 50-55% of the power shall continue to be dependent on coal.

CC: How do you think that the problem of overcapacity in the power network can be overcome?

VKA: There is no overcapacity in the power network as of now. What was not being absorbed into the system was because of the inefficiency of the distributing companies that have now been given a onetime lifeline by UDAY Scheme, which has resulted in their being able to buy more power and supply to the consumers.

CC: What needs to be done to India’s rail network to boost domestic coal availability?

VKA: The Dedicated Freight Corridors and commissioning of 3 proposed railway lines in the heart of the coal fields should be able to ensure that the Railways are able to transport the extra quantity of coal. A serious effort is also being made to open the waterways for navigation and transportation of coal.

CC: Finally, you’re speaking at the 17th Coaltrans India in February. What are you most looking forward to hearing about?

VKA: Coaltrans is a very good occasion to interact with all the strategic partners responsible for taking care of the coal supplies. Be it the coal producers, the transporters, the shippers and others, all are going to be there. It is a very informative and interesting place for anyone who is connected with coal.

Published: 18 January 2018

This content is provided by Coaltrans Conferences for informational purposes only, and it reflects the market and industry conditions and presenter’s opinions and affiliations available at the time of the presentation.

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