Amid blackout SOS, long power cuts across India, PMO devises plan to tackle coal shortage

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October 12, 2021 7:52 PM

The coal ministry has been asked to ramp up the supply of coal while railways has been asked to make available rakes to transport the fuel to power plants, the sources said

Coal crisis, India coal shortageThe shortage of coal -- which makes up around 70 per cent of India's electricity mix -- has forced rotational power cuts in states from Rajasthan to Kerala

Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on Tuesday reviewed the coal supply and power generation scenario as the government looks at ways to defuse the energy crisis being faced by several states. At the meeting over coal shortage at power plants which have led to blackouts in some states, Power Secretary Alok Kumar and Coal Secretary AK Jain made a presentation on coal and power availability, sources said, adding that ways to increase transportation of coal were also discussed during the meeting.

The coal ministry has been asked to ramp up the supply of coal while railways has been asked to make available rakes to transport the fuel to power plants, the sources said. The shortage of coal — which makes up around 70 per cent of India’s electricity mix — has forced rotational power cuts in states from Rajasthan to Kerala. About two-thirds of the coal-fired power plants had stockpiles of a week or less but the coal ministry said, “any fear of disruption in the power supply is entirely misplaced.” States have been forced to buy power from exchanges at high rates to meet demand.

To defuse the crisis, the Union power ministry has issued instructions ranging from asking states not to sell power at high prices on the exchange to ordering state electricity generators to ensure adequate supplies. State-owned Coal India Ltd (CIL) has been asked to augment the coal supply to power producers to 1.55-1.6 million tonnes per day this week and to further scale it up to 1.7 million tonnes daily after October 20. The coal dispatched by CIL to the power sector on Monday stood at 1.615 million tonnes.

Coal Minister Pralhad Joshi said the government is making full efforts to meet the coal demand of power producers. “We at the ministry and CIL are making full efforts to meet the coal demand… Yesterday (Monday), we supplied around 1.95 million tonnes of coal. Around 1.6 million tonnes from CIL and the remaining from Singareni Collieries Company Ltd. All put together, 1.95 million tonnes we have supplied”. Speaking at the launch event of the third tranche of the auction for commercial mining of coal, the minister said, “from October 20-21 or before that, we will try to reach two million tonnes (supply), which will again be a record”.

CIL has around 22 days of stock and supplies will be ramped up as monsoon rains in coal belt that led to the flooding of mines have receded. Responding to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s warning of a potential power crisis in the national capital, state-owned NTPC tweeted saying that distribution companies in Delhi were taking only 70 per cent of the power that it was made available to them. Tweeting a 10-day graph of electricity made available to distribution companies, it said, “NTPC has been making available required power for Delhi. As the data shows (1st October to 11th October), Delhi DISCOMs have been scheduling only 70% of the power that has been made available by NTPC.” Against 54.83 million units made available, Delhi discoms scheduled only 38.81 million units on October 11, it said.

Earlier in the day, the power ministry asked states to utilise unallocated power of the Central Generating Stations (CGS) to meet the requirements of their own consumers. “It has been brought to the notice of the Ministry of Power that some states are not supplying power to their consumers and imposing load shedding. At the same time, they are also selling power in the power exchange at high price,” a power ministry statement said. As per the guidelines for allocation of power, 15 per cent of power from CGS is kept as “unallocated power” which is allocated by the central government to needy states to meet the requirement of power of the consumers.

The responsibility to supply power to the consumers is of the distribution companies and they should first serve their consumers who have the right to receive 24×7 power. Thus, the distribution companies should not sell the power in the power exchange and starve their own consumers, it stated. In case any state is found to be not serving their consumers and selling power in the power exchanges at a higher rate, the unallocated power of such states shall be withdrawn and allocated to other needy states, the statement said.

 

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