Coal situation stays grim across India, Union Minister Amit Shah takes stock

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By Express News Service

NEW DELHI:  Amid widespread concerns over power cuts across the country because of inadequate coal supply at generation units, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday met both coal and power ministers to take stock of the situation. 

Besides power minister R K Singh and coal minister Pralhad Joshi, top officials of the ministries and senior officials  from the state-run energy conglomerate NTPC Ltd, attended the hour-long meeting.  While the ministry of coal sought to allay fears of disruption in power supply, the latest daily report of the Central Electric Authority said as many as 115 of the 135 thermal power plants in the country are now on coal stocks of less than a week. As many as 96 of these plants that generate 71% of total thermal power in the country, have coal stocks of four days or less (see table).

Depending on the distance of the power plant (from the coal  mines) and the kind of coal — pithead or non-pithead — it uses, a comfortable stock would last for 15-30 days. The stock is considered critical if it is likely to last for seven days or less; and super critical if it will be exhausted in four days or less. On Friday last, the number of power plants with critical or super-critical coal stocks was 110. 

Reports from across the country confirmed the grim picture. Delhi’s thermal units barely have stock for two-three days, claimed power minister Satyendar Jain.  Karnataka has  just two days of coal stock left, with barely 12 rakes, each having up to 4,000 metric tonnes of coal.

As on 6.30 pm on Monday, the Raichur Thermal Power Station produced just 444 MW against a capacity of 1,720 MW from three grids; Ballari TPS 395 MW against a capacity of 1,700 MW; and Yeramarus TPS 678 MW though its installed capacity is 1,600 MW. Only one unit each of YTPS and BTPS were operating. Also, two coal-based thermal power plants have been shut for two-and-a-half months as coal could not be imported. However, hydro plants managed to address the need for now due to abundant rains.

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In Rajasthan, Monday was the 11th successive day of blackouts. The state has an overall shortfall of about 2,450 MW, though coal stock has improved a bit with generation commencing in a few plants that were forced to go idle.Punjab has a shortfall of 1,000 MW per day as many thermal units are shut or working at 50%. 

States looking at options to meet power demands

“Many of our thermal power units are shut due to coal shortage. But in a day or so the power situation should improve,” said Punjab State Power Corporat i o n chair man A Venu Parshad. Poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, too, has a deficit of over 1,000 MW, because of which some of the rural areas are facing fivesix hour outages. However, uninterrupted supply to cities is being maintained.

As for the NDA-ruled Bihar, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday admitted he was grappling with a power crisis. To bridge the deficit of about 800 MW, the government is purchasing power at higher rates, he said. Kerala has an estimated shortfall of 300- 400 MW amid dwindling coal reserves.

The Pinarayi government has decided to buy costly power from the exchange to avoid load shedding. Very few states have been untouched by the crisis, and Telangana must count itself as lucky because it has Singareni coal fields. Its current stock at thermal units is sufficient for the next 15 days.

“Because, we have Singareni, we have sufficient stocks,” a top official in TS Genco said. Odisha, too, is in a comfortable position with adequate stock. It is anyway a power surplus state. As for Tamil Nadu, it has coal stock for seven days. The situation is largely normal in Assam, Chhattisgarh and MP.

But since Uttarakhand has stopped buying costly power to meet its deficit, many districts there are experiencing power cuts for a few hours. Capital Dehradun, though, is adequately provided. The power situation in Andhra Pradesh, too, is manageable but coal shortage has forced some thermal plants to scale down generation. If the situation is not addressed immediately, power cuts could become unavoidable after a week, officials warned. With inputs from ENS bureaux

Costly energy
Sourcing energy from the national exchange costs a bomb but many states dipping into it to avoid power cuts. Its per unit cost has shot up from Rs 5-8 per unit earlier to Rs 12-15 per unit now

Scaling up
Coal India Ltd said it has scaled up supply of coal to power plants across the country to 1.51 million tonnes a day in the last four days and is trying to bridge the demand-supply gap

40 MT stock
Coal India already has 40 million tonnes of stock at its pitheads and the volume is steadily increasing, it said in a statement. CIL accounts for over 80% of domestic coal output



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