Be prepared for power outages ahead as coal supplies to 30 out of India's 95 thermal power plants have reached alarming levels.
Out of these 30 power stations that produce 26,320 mega-watt (mw) of power, 25 plants are running on less than four days of coal stocks, according to data available with the power ministry's advisory wing, Central Electricity Authority (CEA). Of the 25, five are from National Thermal Power Corp (NTPC) - in Delhi (Badarpur), Uttar Pradesh (Dadri and Unchahar), Andhra Pradesh (Simadhari), Bihar (Kahalgaon).
"Any sudden disruption in coal supplies can affect power availability in a big way," said a senior power ministry official.Against the typical requirement of 15-20 days of coal stocks, 30 power plants with a total capacity of 26,320 mw are at critical level with less than 7 days of coal and out of these 25 plants with a capacity of over 21,000 mw have less than 4 days of stocks. Four plants have virtually no coal stock and are running on day-to-day supplies of coal, data from the CEA has revealed.
While coal ministry officials said, "this is not anything unsual and there is no need to panic," power ministry and NTPC officials offered a different take on the situation.
"The situation is certainly alarming as any disruption in the movement of coal - either due to rain or for instance the tsunami alert which was announced on Wednesday - could make power plants run dry, thereby affecting power production," said a senior power ministry official.
"What if there is a repeat of last year-like situation when floods as well as labour unrest affected movement of coal and choked supplies at most power stations. We are certainly in for a trouble," said a NTPC official.
Last year, more that 50% of India's thermal power plants had to struggle for adequate coal supplies.
"The thermal plants had to suffer for adequate fuel supply for more than a month due to heavy rainfall, Telangana agitation and labour unrest," the NTPC official added.