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India Grapples With Its Worst Power Crisis In Six Years

On April 28, the all-India maximum power demand met during the day hit 204.65 gigawatts (GW), surpassing the previous record of 201.06 gigawatts on April 26. Some 42 passenger trains have been cancelled across India to allow faster movement of coal carriages to tackle critically low stocks at power plants

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India has been grappling with its worst electricity shortage in more than six years. Extreme temperatures in the month of April have led to a sudden increase in power demand across states. This increase in power demand has not matched the supply side, as coal inventories are at the lowest pre-summer levels in at least nine years. Coal is the dominant fuel used in the country for electricity generation, meeting 70 per cent of the energy requirement.

On April 28, the all India maximum power demand met during the day hit 204.65 gigawatts (GW), surpassing the previous record of 201.06 gigawatts on April 26. Electricity supply fell short of demand by 1.88 billion units, or 1.6 per cent, during the first 27 days of April, as per the news agency Reuters.

Bloomberg on Friday reported that some 42 passenger trains have been cancelled across India to allow faster movement of coal carriages to tackle critically low stocks at power plants. Data from Central Electricity Authority (CEA) showed that 56 of 165 thermal power stations are left with 10 per cent or less coal, and at least 26 have less than five per cent stock left.

The railways are trying to take steps “at war-footing” to transport coal and cut down the time it takes to move coal to power plants, officials said. About 30 plants in the country had critical stock due to the non-diversion of rakes to the plant, as per CEA on April 27.

On Thursday, Delhi Power Minister Satyendra Jain said that crucial power plants were left with less than a day of coal. “They should have at least 21 days of reserve coal, and this could cause blackouts and lead to interruptions in services like the metro and government hospitals,” said Jain.

However, NTPC contradicted the claim of the Delhi government and said that Dadri-II and Unchahar power plants are running at full capacity and receiving regular supplies.

“Currently, Unchahar and Dadri stations are declaring more than 100 per cent rated capacity to the grid. All units of Unchahar and Dadri are running at full load except Unchahar Unit 1, which is under annual planned overhaul,” NTPC said in a statement.

 “All six units of Dadri and five units of Unchahar are running at full capacity and receiving regular coal supplies. Present stock is 140000 MT and 95000 MT respectively, and import coal supplies are also in the pipeline,” NTPC said.

Delhi is not the only state to raise the alarm about the power situation. Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren wrote to the Centre seeking outstanding dues of Coal India Limited (CIL) and its subsidiaries. Tamil Nadu chief minister MK Stalin urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to direct the coal ministry to supply the state with 72,000 MT of coal daily. 

Haryana has decided to import coal for the first time in a decade. This week on Wednesday, the maximum electricity demand across Haryana touched nearly 9,000 MW, while the supply fell short by around 1,500 MW. The shortage resulted in four to six hours of cumulative power outage in Gurugram.

States such as Maharashtra and West Bengal have had to resort to power cuts. 

Madhya Pradesh has requested additional coal rakes from the Centre.

In Rajasthan, the electricity demand has increased 31 per cent, leading to power cuts of 5 to 7 hours a day.

In Kerala, The Kerala State Electricity Board has decided to impose a power cut after the production decreased by 400 MW due to the coal crisis.

Andhra Pradesh is facing a shortfall of about 50 million units of power against the demand, which is touching 210 million units a day. The discoms have resorted to a two-day power holiday for industries every weak.

Blackouts and power cuts have hit life and industry in several parts of India in the middle of an unprecedented heatwave.

Industries are cutting output due to coal shortage which threatens economic recovery when the government is already tackling high energy prices fueled by the conflict in Eastern Europe.

Global coal production still hasn’t rebounded to pre-pandemic levels. Miners have been hobbled by weather problems, labour shortages and transportation issues, and a lack of investment in new capacity. Coal prices have also surged in the international market after Russia invaded Ukraine, making coal imports costlier. Futures prices for the Australian benchmark, which rarely breaks $100 a metric ton, have touched an all-time high of $440 after the invasion.


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power crisis coal shortage power cuts railways