India is in a grip of energy crisis as some states, including Delhi and Punjab, due to excessive rainfall hitting coal movement and imported coal-based power plants generating less than half of their capacity due to record-high rates.
Rains took a toll on the coal movement, from mines to power generation units, impacting power generation in many states, including Gujarat, Punjab, Rajasthan, Delhi, and Tamil Nadu, despite the country producing record coal this year.
While power producers and distributors have warned of blackouts as generation units are running with coal stocks of as low as two days, the Coal Ministry said the country has adequate coal stocks and low inventory does not mean generation will stop as stocks are being continuously replenished.
Another factor that has contributed to the present crisis is power plants that used imported coal to generate electricity, have either curtailed generation or completely stopped as a spurt in international energy prices has made it difficult for them to meet the commitments to states at a particular rate.
Power plants low on generation
Power plants across the country regulated generation after stock ran low. Against the requirement of maintaining 15 days to 30 days of stocks, over half of the country’s 135 coal-fired power plants, which in total supply around 70 percent of the nation’s electricity, have fuel stocks of less than two days, as per the data from the grid operator.
The Coal Ministry, however, said the stocks being reported by power plants are rolling stock, which means stocks are being replenished on a day-by-day basis.
“There are about 40 million tonnes of coal stock at the mines and another 7.5 million tonnes at power plants,” a top ministry official said. “Evacuation from mines to power plants has been an issue as due to excessive rains mines get flooded. But this is now being sorted out and supplies to power plants are rising.”
Kejriwal writes to PM
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal shot off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over “a power crisis” Delhi could face. “I am personally keeping a close watch over the situation. We are trying our best to avoid it,” Kejriwal said.
“Delhi could face a power crisis. I am personally keeping a close watch over the situation. We are trying our best to avoid it. In the meanwhile, I wrote a letter to Hon’ble PM seeking his personal intervention,” Kejriwal tweeted.
The letter also mentions that with the coal stock situation depleting in power generating stations, the dependence on Gas stations supplying the power to Delhi increases. But, even the gas station supplying power to Delhi does not have adequate APM gas to run at full capacity.
States red flag
PUNJAB: Punjab State Power Corporation Ltd (PSPCL) too cited the same reason for imposing rotational 3-4 hour load shedding at several places in the state. PSPCL said two units each at Talwandi Sabo power plant, Ropar plant and one unit at the Lehra Mohabbat, 475 MW plant have been shut.
Coal-fired power plants are running at a reduced capacity because of a shortage of coal, said an official of Punjab State Power Corporation Limited on Saturday.
With the power situation turning grim, power plants in the state are left with coal stock of up to five days, said an official of Punjab State Power Corporation Limited.
“Plants are running at a reduced capacity,” said the official adding that they were not being run at full capacity in order to conserve coal. Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi on Saturday hit out at the Centre for insufficient coal supply and apprehended impending shutdown of the state’s thermal power plants due to fast depleting coal supplies in the next couple of days.
He said Punjab was not getting adequate coal supply despite agreements with various subsidiaries of Coal India Ltd and asked the central government to immediately ensure the state’s quota of coal to tide over the power crisis.
RAJASTHAN: Rajasthan is resorting to one hour power cuts on a daily basis. The Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (Tangedco) said that power will be suspended in parts of Chennai for carrying out maintenance work in the city.
Jharkhand and Bihar are also among the worst affected by the coal shortage.
ANDHRA: In Andhra Pradesh, acute supply shortfalls were pushing it towards unscheduled power cuts, adding that crops could dry up if there is no electricity to power irrigation pumps. “More water is required in the last stage of harvesting and if it is denied, fields would dry up and farmers stand to lose,” Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy said in a letter to the Prime Minister.
In Odisha, the industry was facing a coal shortage and had petitioned the state government to ensure an adequate supply of the fuel.
As India’s economy picked up after a deadly second wave of Covid-19, demand for power rose sharply. Electricity consumption has jumped almost 17 percent in the last two months alone when compared to the same period in 2019.
At the same time, global coal prices increased by 40 percent and India’s imports fell to a two-year low. The country is the world’s second-largest importer of coal despite also being home to the fourth-largest coal reserves in the world.
(With agency inputs)