Delhi stares at a power crisis, sends out SOS

By, New Delhi
Oct 10, 2021 12:05 AM IST

Delhi could face power outages if the central government does not quickly resolve the coal shortage at power plants, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Saturday

Delhi could face power outages if the central government does not quickly resolve the coal shortage at power plants, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Saturday. His remarks followed reports that over half of 135 coal-fired utilities, which supply more than half of India’s electricity, have fuel stocks to last just under three days.

HT Image
HT Image

Kejriwal sought the intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to resolve the crisis in a letter. A supply disruption could impact strategic institutions such as hospitals, cold chains for Covid-19 vaccines and Covid Care Centres, he wrote.

Of the five coal-fired thermal power plants that supply Delhi about 1,971MW electricity every day, at least one has completely run out of stock, Kejriwal wrote in the letter. He was referring to the Mejia thermal power station in West Bengal, which provides 100MW of electricity to Delhi.

The plant has no coal reserve to generate electricity for even one extra day, the letter indicated. Of the remaining four, three had only a day of coal stocks, while the fourth had a reserve of four days, it added.

“I draw your attention to the prevailing coal shortage situation that is continuing since August/September for the third month in a row, which has affected power generation from the major central generating plants supplying power to Delhi,” Kejriwal wrote in his letter.

Several parts of Delhi are already suffering scheduled power cuts, residents said. Consumers in south and north Delhi, in areas such as Chirag Delhi, Burari, Deoli and Mohan Garden, reported power outages for up to four hours in the past two days.

A statement from the Union power secretary’s office said: “The Union petroleum secretary has ensured that all required quantity of gas will be supplied to the gas based Bawana and Pragati stations for Delhi. NTPC has been directed to increase coal stocks equal to the national average for Dadri and Jajjhar stations and to give full availability. Delhi Discoms are not scheduling power from Dadri I as they want to exit PPA after 25 years. They have been advised to schedule power from Dadri-I.”

The ministry in a separate statement, said: “Ministry of Coal and CIL have assured that they are making best efforts to increase dispatch to power sector to 1.6 MT per day in next three days and thereafter try to touch 1.7 MT per day. It is likely to help in gradual build up of coal stocks at the power plant in near future. The coal supply as well as consequent power situation is likely to improve.”

Taking note of the situation, the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission held an emergency meeting on Saturday and decided to relax certain charges for the city’s distribution companies so they can procure power from any source readily available to them.

The regulator asked the state-owned Gas Turbine Power Station to make available 270MW of electricity through natural gas or any other alternative fuel available. It separately wrote to the Union power ministry, seeking its urgent intervention to resolve the issue.

The coal supply crisis seems to be deepening with the onset of the festival season as 64 power plants not located near coal mines are left with under four days of the fuel stocks.

There are a number of reasons for the current situation. International prices of coal have surged, increasing the demand for local coal. Power demand, and therefore the derived demand for coal, has increased sharply in the past couple of months, perhaps a reflection of pent-up demand on account of the disruption from the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in April-May, HT reported earlier. Heavy rainfall, especially in the coal-producing regions of Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal, have added to the problems.

Delhi power minister Satyendar Jain held a meeting with distribution companies and asked them to buy power at spot prices, if necessary. Spot purchase of power is more expensive than long-term agreements.

“No power plant that supplies electricity to Delhi is operating at 100% capacity. They’re all functioning at minimum levels. Even the hydroelectric power plants are not running at full capacity. If they are run at full capacity, at least in peak hours, it will be a huge relief,” Jain said. “Delhi may face a blackout if the supplies are not resumed at the earliest.”

Kejriwal requested the central government to allocate enough natural gas to run plants such as Bawana, Pragati-I and Gas Turbine Power Station in and around Delhi. Kejriwal sought that the cost of spot purchase of power be capped to “discourage profiteering by traders or generators” amid the crisis.

The Delhi unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) criticised Kejriwal for not initiating steps to prevent power outages.

“Whenever a crisis hits Delhi, be it of pollution, water shortage, Covid-19, or the ensuing power crisis, the Delhi government always humbly pleads for help to the Centre. But the moment the crisis passes off, Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party begin criticising the Centre. People of Delhi now understand this dirty politics of the AAP and it will face its consequences in the civic elections of Delhi next year,” said Delhi BJP spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor.

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    Sweta Goswami writes on politics, urban development, transportation, energy and social welfare. Based in Delhi, she tracks government policies and suggests corrections based on public feedback and on-ground implementation through her reports. She has also covered the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) since its inception.

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