The government is planning to identify 25-30 mineral-rich districts in the country to accelerate mining programmes by expediting the approval mechanism for energy projects in these regions. According to official documents reviewed by FE, the initiative comes under the ‘Agrim Districts for Accessing Resources Sustainable and Harmoniously’ (Adarsh) scheme, which is being planned by the government to meet the rising energy demands of the country, via domestic resources.
The plan has been designed by the ‘Five Year Vision Resources Group 2024’, which was tasked to layout a framework to increase energy supply and cut imports. According to sources, the ministries of power, renewable energy, petroleum and natural gas, environment and forest, coal, mines and external affairs constitute the group. The group was formulated after secretaries from the aforementioned ministries held six meetings between June 21 and August 6.
According to the Adarsh plan, energy projects of both public and private companies in the identified mineral-rich districts would undergo an ‘accelerated consent and clearances framework’, subject to the approval of an ‘integrated plan’ — which would incorporate environment clearances, compensatory afforestation, resource development, smart townships, connectivity and market places. The vision document plans to address these challenges by streamlining dispute resolution mechanisms, introducing more competition in the sectors and bringing in associated regulatory reforms.
Delays in receiving forest clearances, mining-safety permissions, land acquisition and ongoing litigation have been attributed as the key reasons behind slow growth in the production of domestic energy resources such as coal. The Adarsh scheme aims to fast track production by overcoming such impediments.
According to the document, the coal ministry has suggested the coal allocation methodology to gradually shift from captive mining to commercial sale of coal, where there will not be any restriction on end use. It also plans to allocate more than 200 blocks, including the unexplored ones, by 2024. It also aims to increase the share of coal supply to non-regulated sectors (such as steel, cement and fertiliser) to 35% from the current level of 25%. The regulated power sector consumes most of the coal.
According to the vision document, the government plans to have 260 giga-watt (GW) of installed renewable energy capacity and produce 1,120 MT of coal annually by 2024. The country produced 739.4 MT of coal in FY19 and the current installed renewable capacity, including hydro, is about 125 GW. Per-capita electricity consumption is seen to grow to 1,630 units from the current level of under 1,200 units.
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