There has been no resolution so far to the issue of assured fuel supply from Coal India Limited (CIL) to power producers.  According to reports, while CIL released a model supply agreement in April 2012, so far only around 13 Fuel Supply Agreements (FSAs) have been signed.  Originally around 50 power units were expected to sign FSAs with CIL.  Power producers have objected to the model FSA released by CIL, particularly its force majeure provisions and the dilution of financial penalties in case of lower than contracted supply. Background The adverse power supply situation has attracted greater attention in the past few months.  According to Central Electricity Authority's data, the gap between peak demand and peak supply of power in March 2012 was 11 per cent.  The decreasing availability of fuel has emerged as a critical component of the worsening power supply situation.  As of March 31, 2012, there were 32 critical thermal power stations that had a coal stock of less than 7 days.  The gap between demand and supply of coal in the past three years is highlighted below: Table 1: Coal demand/Supply gap (In millions of tonnes)

















Source: PIB News Release dated May 7, 2012 Coal accounts for around 56 per cent of total installed power generation capacity in India.  Increased capacity in thermal power has also accounted for almost 81 per cent of the additional 62,374 MW added during the 11th Plan period.  Given the importance of coal in meeting national energy needs, the inability of CIL to meet its supply targets has become a major issue.  While the production target for CIL was 486 MT for 2011-12, its actual coal production was 436 MT. Fuel Supply Agreements In March 2012, the government asked CIL to sign FSAs with power plants that have been or would be commissioned by March 31, 2015.  These power plants should also have entered into long term Power Purchase Agreements with distribution companies.  After CIL did not sign FSAs by the deadline of March 31, 2012 the government issued a Presidential Directive to CIL on April 4, 2012 directing it to sign the FSAs.  The CIL board approved a model FSA in April 2012, which has not found acceptance by power producers. According to newspaper reports, many power producers have expressed their dissatisfaction with the model FSA released by CIL.  They have argued that it differs from the 2009 version of FSAs in some major ways.  These include:

  • The penalty for supplying coal below 80 per cent of the contracted amount has been reduced from 10 per cent to 0.01 per cent.  The penalty will be applicable only after three years.
  • The new FSA has extensive force majeure provisions that absolve CIL of non-supply in case of multiple contingencies – including equipment breakdown, power cuts, obstruction in transport, riots, failure to import coal due to “global shortage or delays… or no response to enquiries (by CIL) for supply of coal.”
  • CIL would have the discretion to annually review the supply level that would trigger a financial penalty.  There was no provision for such a review in the earlier FSA.

Most power producers, including NTPC, the country’s biggest power producer, have refused to sign the new FSA.  Reports suggest that the Power Minister has asked the Prime Minister’s Office to mandate CIL to sign FSAs within a month based on the 2009 format.  CIL has received a request from NTPC to consider signing FSAs based on the same parameters as their existing plants, but with the revised trigger point of 80 per cent (down from 90 per cent earlier). Underlying this situation is CIL’s own stagnating production.  Various experts have pointed to the prohibition on private sector participation in coal mining (apart from captive projects) and the backlog in granting environment and forest clearances as having exacerbated the coal supply situation.

The Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India (Amendment) Bill, 2021 was passed by Parliament on August 4, 2021.  It amends the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India Act, 2008.  This Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha during the budget session this year in March 2021.  Subsequently, it was referred to the Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism, and Culture, which submitted its report on July 22, 2021.

Typically, cities have one civilian airport which provides all aeronautical services in that area.  These services include air traffic management, landing and parking of aircraft, and ground handling services.  This makes airports natural monopolies in the area.  To ensure that private airport operators do not misuse their monopoly, the need for an independent tariff regulator in the airport sector was felt.  Hence, the Airport Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA) was established as an independent body under the 2008 Act to regulate tariffs and other charges (development fee and passenger service fee) for aeronautical services at major airports.  

For the remaining airports, these tariffs are determined by the Airports Authority of India (AAI), which is a body under the Ministry of Civil Aviation.  In addition, AAI leases out airports under the public-private partnership (PPP) model for operation, management, and development.  Before AERA was set up, AAI determined and fixed the aeronautical charges for all airports.  It also prescribed performance standards for all airports and monitored them.  Various committees had noted that AAI performed the role of airport operator as well as the regulator, which resulted in a conflict of interest.

The 2008 Act designates an airport as a major airport if it has an annual passenger traffic of at least 35 lakh.  The central government may also designate any airport as a major airport through a notification.  The Bill adds that the central government may group airports and notify the group as a major airport.  Thus, when a small airport will be clubbed in a group and the group is notified as a major airport, its tariff will be determined by AERA instead of AAI.  Note that AERA will not determine the tariff if such tariff or tariff structures or the amount of development fees has been incorporated in the bidding document, which is the basis for the award of operatorship of that airport.

The amendments under the Bill raise some concerns regarding the grouping of airports and the capacity of the regulator.

  • Grouping of airports: The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill states that government will club together profit-making and loss-making airports and offer them as a package in PPP mode to the prospective bidders.  This may be a policy decision to revive loss-making airports.  With the passage of the Bill, AERA will treat a group of airports as one entity.  One of the ways in which tariffs may be structured for the grouped entity would be through cross-subsidies.  This would involve compensating loss-making airports with the revenue generated from the profit-making airports.  If such a model is used, it may increase the cost of services to the end-consumers of profit-making airports or could reduce the profitability of such airports.  The experiences from other sectors such as electricity show that cross-subsidisation may lead to pricing problems in long term. 
  • Capacity of the regulator: AERA was created to provide a level playing field in the aviation sector and resolve the conflict of interest that arises with AAI both operating and regulating tariffs at airports.  During the examination of the AERA Bill, 2007 by the Standing Committee, the Ministry of Civil Aviation informed the Committee that AERA should regulate tariff and monitor performance standards only at major airports.  Depending upon future developments in the sector, and as the regulator built its capacity, other functions could be subsequently assigned to the regulator.

As of 2020, there are 125 operational airports in India (includes international airports, customs airports, and civil enclaves).  The number of airports under the purview of AERA increased from 11 in 2007 to 24 in 2019.  For the remaining airports, tariffs are still determined by AAI.  In the last five years (2014 to 2019), air passenger traffic increased from 11.3 crore to 34.9 crore (which is an annual growth rate of 10%).  Till 2030-31, air traffic in the country is expected to continue growing at an average annual rate of 10-11%

Before 2019, an airport with annual passenger traffic of at least 15 lakh was considered a major airport.  In 2019, the AERA Act was amended to increase this threshold to 35 lakh.  The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the 2019 Bill stated that the exponential growth of the aviation sector has put tremendous pressure on AERA, while its resources are limited.  Therefore, if too many airports come under the purview of AERA, it will not be able to perform its functions efficiently.  Consequently, in 2019, the number of airports under the purview of AERA was reduced.  Now, with the passage of the 2021 Bill, AERA will have to again regulate tariffs at more airports as and when notified by the central government.  Thus, the capacity of AERA may be needed to be enhanced for extending its scope to other airports.

Table 1: List of major airports in India (as of June 2019)

























Source: AERA website as accessed on August 2, 2021; PRS.