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India’s power crisis: Why is it recurring every year?

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Google Oneindia News

New Delhi, Apr 27: India is grappling with a power crisis as peak demand in states sees a sharp rise amid a sweltering heat wave. Acute coal shortages are leading to power cuts in states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.

Representational Image

The low coal stocks at power plants to several factors such as a steep increase in the demand for power due to the boom in the economy post COVID-19, early arrival of summer, rise in the price of gas and imported coal and sharp fall in electricity generation by coastal thermal power plants.

How bad is the situation?

At least 100 of the 173 power plants are facing coal shortage. The coal stock in these plants are 25 per cent less than the normal stock, acording to a report from the Central Electricity Department.

"There was a stock of 22.52 million tonnes as of April 18 against 66.72 million tonnes, which is only 34 per cent of the common stock. This stock can produce electricity for up to nine days," it said.

The condition of the private sector thermal plants is equally bad as the coal stock of 28 out of 54 plants is in a critical stage.

All the seven thermal plants with a capacity of 7,580 MW in the Rajasthan state sector have critical coal stock. In Uttar Pradesh, 3 out of 4 state sector thermal plants with a capacity of 6,129 MW with exception of Anapara thermal are having critical coal stock.

In Punjab, the coal stock at Rajpura thermal is for 17 days, 4 days for Talwandi Sabo thermal and nil stock at GVK thermal.

In Haryana, Yamuna Nagar thermal has a stock of 8 days, and Panipat thermal of 7 days.

States that are on blink of power crisis

As many as 12 states such as Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab, Jharkhand and Haryana are facing electricity deficit amid heat wave conditions.

Coal shortage has been observed in all four plants in Karnataka, including the one operated by NTPC. Apart from these, only 11 per cent or 1.87 lakh tonnes of stock is left in the three state-run plants as against the normal stock of 16.99 lakh tonnes.

What steps has the government taken to tackle this problem?

The Union Power Ministry has recommended the import of coal for blending up to 10 per cent to ensure adequate stock when the power demand is at its peak in the next few months.

The present landed cost of imported Indonesian coal is around USD 200. The expensive imported coal would increase costs for utilities.

Further, the number of trains committed by the Indian Railways per day is 415, against 453 required by the utilities. Practically this number never exceeds 400. The wagon shortage normally affects thermal stations, which are at far-off places from coal mines,.

Besides, an Inter-Ministerial Sub Group of Power, Coal, Railways, CEA, CIL and SCCL meet regularly to take various operational decisions to enhance supply of coal to thermal power plants.

Expert's take on shortage

"Both demand- and supply-side factors are responsible," economists led by Sonal Varma at the Japanese bank wrote in a research note on April 19 as reported by Bloomberg.

"Electricity demand has shot up, due to the reopening and as the country heads towards the peak summer season, but supply has been disrupted due to the reduced availability of railway rakes to transport coal and lower coal imports."

With no immediate respite in sight, you should prepare yourself for more power cuts and higher electricity bills during this summer.

Why is power crisis recurring every year?

India's coal shortage is not new phenomenon. Despite taking various measures, the government has not succeeded in overcoming the problem.

The lack of planning and coordination between various ministries involved in the process - Power Ministry, Coal Ministry and Railways could be one of the reason for the current situation.

It has become a norm that the Coal Ministry blames the Indian Railways for non-availability of adequate rakes, while the Railways has pointed out the mismanagement in loading and unloading of rakes by the Coal India (CIL).

Despite increase in coal production and despatch by CIL and other PSU miners, the supply at power plants has still not gone above 15 days in the last six months and lack of coordination and planning is to be blamed for this.

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