Dues of over Rs 2 trillion owed by state governments to their own discoms have added to the woes of the power sector already hit by high coal prices. These dues include unpaid electricity bills by government departments and entities, and subsidy amounts yet to be released to the discoms.
In the first fortnight of April, the power shortfall shot up to 1.4% of the demand compared to the latest peak of 1.1% in October 2021. Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab, Jharkhand and Haryana are facing power cuts ranging from 3% to 8.7% of their total demand, an industry official said. The power demand in Uttar Pradesh has reached 21,000 mega watt (MW) while the supply is around 20,000 MW only.
Though there is no serious coal crisis in thermal power plants operated by Uttar Pradesh Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam, their reserve stock is only 26% of the standard norm. The situation is likely to become more difficult with the increase in the demand for electricity as mercury levels rise.
According to Shailendra Dubey, chairman of All India Power Engineers Federation, non-payment of dues by states has created a vicious cycle, where discoms, too, are unable to pay power generators (gencos) on time and many gencos defaulting in payment of fuel bills to Coal India.
Dubey warned of an impending energy crisis in 12 states due to depleting coal inventory of gencos and discoms inability to pay for high-cost power on exchanges or from alternate fuels such as gas.
Power demand in the country has hit a 38-year high leading to power outages across states.
Union power minister RK Singh recently blamed the Russia-Ukraine war for the steep rise in the prices of imported coal and lack of adequate availability of railway wagons to transport coal to power stations. For coal supply to thermal power stations, 453 rakes are required, whereas only 379 rakes were available in the first week of April. Dubey said the demand for coal in first fortnight of April rose by 9% on year and only eight days’ coal was left in thermal power stations in 12 states.