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As more states sound alarm, Centre scrambles all resources to avert power crisis

Power Minister R.K. Singh reviewed coal stock position at all plants

high-power-transmission-electricity-power-line-shut Representative image

With states from Delhi to Andhra Pradesh sending warnings of a developing power crisis due to shortage of coal, the central government on Sunday pressed all resources at its command to ensure power plants have enough feedstock to generate electricity.

While Union Power Minister R.K. Singh reviewed the coal stock position at all thermal power plants, including those units that supply electricity to distribution companies in the national capital, the Ministry of Coal said "ample coal is available in the country to meet the demand" and "any fear of disruption in power supply is entirely misplaced".

In a year when the country produced record coal, excessive rains in coal producing belt hit movement of the fuel from mines to power generation units, impacting power generation in many states including Punjab, Rajasthan, Delhi and Andhra Pradesh.

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.

Tata Power, which has signed contracts to supply 1,850 MW of electricity to Gujarat, 475 MW to Punjab, 380 MW to Rajasthan, 760 MW to Maharashtra and 380 MW to Haryana from its imported coal-based power plant at Mundra in Gujarat, has stopped generation.

After Singh''s review of coal stock position, the power ministry in a statement said the total despatch of coal from all sources (Coal India Limited, Singareni Collieries Company, Captive Coal Mines and imported coal) on October 9 was 1.92 million tonnes (19.2 lakh tonnes) against the total consumption was 1.87 million tonnes (18.7 lakh tonnes).

"Coal despatch have exceeded the consumption, thereby indicating shift to gradual building up of coal stock," it said adding the coal stock at power plant is sufficient for more than 4 days'' requirement and as the coal supply is being ramped up by Coal India Ltd (CIL), the coal stock at power plant would gradually improve.

In a separate statement, the Coal Ministry said coal stock at power plant end is about 72 lakh tonnes, sufficient for four days requirement, and that the Coal India Limited (CIL) has more than 400 lakh tonnes of stocks, which is being supplied to power plants.

The domestic coal-based power generation has grown by nearly 24 per cent in this year (till September 2021) based on a robust supply from the coal companies.

"The daily average coal requirement at the power plants is about 18.5 lakh tonnes of coal per day whereas the daily coal supply has been around 17.5 lakh tonnes per day. This due to extended monsoons the despatches were constrained," it said. "The coal available at the power plants is a rolling stock which gets replenished by the supplies from the coal companies on a daily basis."

Any "fear of coal stocks depleting at the power plant end is erroneous," it said. "In fact this year, domestic coal supply has substituted imports by a substantial measure."

Singh, the statement said, has directed that distribution companies of Delhi will get as much power as requisitioned by them as per their demand.

State-owned "NTPC and DVC have been directed to give full availability as per the requirement of DISCOMs," it said adding state gas utility GAIL has been advised to make gas available from all sources to gas-based power plants in Delhi.

NTPC has also been advised to offer normative declared capacity to the Delhi DISCOMs as per their allocations from gas based power plants under respective PPAs.

"If any DISCOM is found to resort to load shedding despite being power available as per PPA, action would be initiated against them," the statement warned.

Despite heavy rains in the month of August-September, steep hike in power demand due to economic recovery and increase in prices of imported coal, domestic coal supply have sustained the operation of power plants and all out efforts are being made to ensure full power supply to the DISCOMs as per their requirements.

The Coal Ministry said despite heavy rains in the coal field areas, CIL had supplied more than 255 million tonnes of coal to the power sector in this year which is the highest ever supply.

Out of the total coal supply from all sources, present coal supply from CIL to power sector is more than 14 lakh tonnes per day and with the receding rains, this supply has already increased to 15 lakh tonnes and is set to increase to more than 16 lakh tonnes per day by the end of October 2021. The supply from SCCL and captive coal blocks shall contribute to another 3 lakh plus tonnes of coal every day.

"Domestic coal supplies have supported power generation in a major way despite heavy monsoons, low coal imports and a steep hike in power demand due to economic recovery. It is expected that coal supplies are set to be a record high in the current financial year," it said.

Due to high international prices of coal, supply of power even under agreements by import based power plants has reduced by almost 30% while domestic based power supply has gone up nearly 24% in April-September this year, the statement said adding the imported coal based power plants have generated about 25.6 billion units against a program of 45.7 BU.

"It may be noted that the comfortable coal position in the country is reflected by the fact that the CIL has been supplying more than 2.5 lakh tonnes daily to meet the demand of non power industries like aluminium, cement, steel etc. along with supply of coal to thermal plants of the country," the statement added. 

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