The government may have said that the Capital’s power crisis will ease in the next few days but poor summer rains and plunging coal stocks at plants nationwide are set to worsen north India’s energy woes.
The Union power ministry’s latest data shows that as many as 21 power projects have less than four days of coal supply, while another 15 projects are running less than 7 days of coal stocks. These plants together produce 55,000 mega watts (MW) or more than 20% of the total power generated in India.
Out of these, six projects of the NTPC — some of which provide power to northern India including Delhi — are running on zero coal stocks, with supplies at bare minimum to make the plant run.
Authorities are also monitoring supplies from the northern grid to states such as Uttar Pradesh and Haryana to prevent a collapse similar to the one in August 2012 that had left more than 600 million people across north and east India powerless for more than 24 hours.
A grid — a network of transmission lines carrying power produced at plants — calibrates supplies to states. Each state has a quota of power that it can draw from the grids.
“We are resorting to strict measures including cutting power supplies of states that do not react to warnings on over-draw of power,” said a senior official of POSOCO, the authority that manages the grid.
Union power secretary PK Sinha has called a meeting on Thursday to put a contingency plan in place to deal with delayed rains, low coal supplies in power plants and better grid management.
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Power ministry officials agreed that poor rains can potentially dry out reservoirs prompting hydro stations to cut down generation, leading to increased dependence on coal-based power stations. But with alarmingly-low coal stocks, the crisis will worsen.
Long power outages in Delhi have become emblematic of north India’s crushing power shortage amid the sweltering heat across the plains of North-west India. The shortage have hurt operations in tens of corporate towers across the NCR and further squeezed small entrepreneurs, already smarting under a slowdown and costly borrowing and raw material.
NTPC, India’s largest thermal power company, produces 43,000 MW of power and is facing alarming coal supplies in plants across Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.
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There are signs that UP is drawing more than its share of power, 6,400 MW a day. The Northern Regional Load Dispatch Centre (NRLDC)—an agency that monitors energy pull out by states—has been sending repeated alerts to the UP Power Corporation Ltd asking it stick to the ceiling to maintain the grid safety.
After the blackout two years ago, the NRLDC fixed the upper limit for all states to draw power from the central grid to the northern grid.