UP power crisis: State reeling due to coal shortage, outlived thermal plants

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UP power crisis must be resolved soon
Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal on Sunday briefed the media and boasted the achievements of his ministries - which include the new and renewable energy portfolio - in the first 100 days of the NDA regime. Goyal also informed media persons that country's thermal power production increased by a record 21 per cent in the June-August period that the NDA government has been in power.

But, these are no 'good days' for the people of Uttar Pradesh who are reeling under power crisis due to acute shortage of coal being reported from several power plants.

What is likely to make matters worse is that two power units in the state have already become non-functional due to coal shortage. Another reason for such a grim situation is that most of the power plants in the state have outlived their period of 25 years and are still being utilised for electricity generation. Hence, the Centre faces a double challenge of meeting up the coal requirements of these plants and gradually setting up new thermal plants to relieve the pressure off existing ones.

Why this grim situation?

As per UP Power Corporation Limited (UPPCL), the state is facing a deficit of around 1500 MW power from the thermal plants run by Centre, in which UP enjoys a certain quota.

The 300 Megawatt (MW) Rosa and 210 MW Parichha have already been shut due to coal shortage while others are on the verge of running out of fuel.

The state is getting around 1500 MW power from plants run by the Central government but the coal shortage has resulted in paucity of around 600 MW power. Besides, nearly half of the thermal power plants in the state have become old and are working under ailing conditions. Most of these public sector power units have outlived their life of 25 years. The Harduaganj and Obra units are nearly 50 years old and are functioning only up to 65 per cent of their total capacity.

The public and private sector units in the state have a total installed capacity of 4,933 MW and 2,850 MW respectively. But all the power plants in the state working below capacity. Hence, government must also look into this matter and improve the condition of ailing power plants.

Relief for by-poll bound areas

However, the state government has decided to give uninterrupted power supply to the assembly constituencies where by-polls are scheduled to take place on September 13. Hence, it will be a relief to the people living in the poll-bound areas at least for a limited period. This could be understood as an attempt by the state government to woo the voters.

Alarmed at the power crisis, likely to cast a shadow in the by-polls, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has written a letter to the union government seeking immediate redressal.

Meanwhile, union power ministry while confirming the SoS by Yadav said much of the solution lay with the state government. "UP will have to get down to course correction and reduce line losses, check power theft and then only a long term solution to the power sector in UP will emerge," a power ministry official told.

What has Centre planned?

The power minister has said many steps have been taken to evacuate greater quantities of coal such as state-miner Coal India's decision in-principle to spend Rs 5,000 crore to purchase 250 rail rakes for faster evacuation of the fossil fuel from mines.

Further, the ministry is expediting the construction of three critical railway lines in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha for faster evacuation of coal. This measure could potentially yield 60 million tonnes of coal per annum by 2017-18 and up to 200 million tonnes by 2021-22, Goyal said.

Several power plants in UP have outlived their period of 25 years

Goyal said the coal shortage at power stations was due to stocks being consumed faster for higher electricity generation without matching supplies. And it will be a tough task for the new government to curb it.

It is time Narendra Modi government reviews UPA's "faulty power policy" and bring some relief to the people of UP who gave 71 seats to the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls. Voters in UP chose Narendra Modi hoping he'll bring them some relief from such power snarls but nothing much has changed on the ground. People in most of the parts of state are forced to spend days and nights in darkness. It is time Narendra Modi government takes some decisions which are visible on the ground. Otherwise, people will soon start distancing itself from the government. 

Apart from reducing the coal shortage, Narendra Modi government must also improve the condition of ailing power plants, which needs a major overhaul. Improving the condition of existing ones and fast tracking completion of under-construction power units must be government's priority.

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