Coal shortage in India leading to power crisis

Coal shortage in India leading to power crisis
Coal shortage in India leading to power crisis

The thermal power plants of India are facing a severe coal shortage. The coal stocks have come down to an average of four days of fuel across an increasing number of thermal stations.

The Union Power Minister R K Singh said that the supply crunch has not yet led to any power cuts in the country, but the coal supply situation will prevail for up to six months.

The extent of the coal shortage in thermal power plants

The average level of coal stocks of India’s thermal power plants has reduced to four days’ worth of stock, compared to the government recommendations that thermal power plants should hold about 14 days worth of coal stock.

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On October 4, 2021, about sixteen thermal power plants with a power generation capacity of 17,475 MW had zero days of coal stock. The coal shortage is more acute in plants that are not located close to coal mines, i.e., around 98 of the 108 plants seen to have critical levels of stock of fewer than eight days. 

The reason behind the coal shortage in India

The Union ministry of power has pitched four causes for the reduction of coal stocks, including an abnormal increase in demand for energy due to the recovery of the economy.

A sharp uprise in power demand is observed due to the weaker economic condition in the Covid-19 pandemic, along with supply issues that have led to the coal shortage. India consumed about 124 billion units of power in August 2021 compared to 106 billion units of power in August 2019, but the pandemic did not impact it.

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Other prime reasons for the supply crunch are the lower than normal stock accumulation by thermal power plants in the April-June period and the continuous rainfall in areas where coal is found in August and September. This led to lower production and fewer supplies of coal from the coal mines. A high international price of coal has also led to plant-cutting imports.

The Hindustan Times quotes

The government took measures.

An inter-ministerial team, which includes the representatives of the Power and Railway Ministries, Coal India Ltd, the Central Electricity Authority, and Power System Operation Corporation, is set up to monitor coal supply to thermal power plants.

The CMT is also monitoring the situation and managing the coal stocks daily to ensure their following actions with CIL and Indian Railways for improvement in the coal supply to power plants. The Power Ministry is trying to increase the coal supply by facilitating the production from several mines that already have all requisite clearances.

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