Power situation fine, no scarcity: Minister
Fears of a power crisis in India are overblown as there are sufficient coal reserves to produce electricity, the central government assured on Sunday, a day after Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, voicing concern that there could be outages in the national capital.
“Any fear of disruption in power supply is entirely misplaced,” the power ministry said in a statement. “The coal stock at power plant is sufficient for more than 4 days’ requirement and as the coal supply is being ramped up by CIL (Coal India Ltd), the coal stock at power plants would gradually improve.”
Reports earlier said that over half of 135 coal-fired utilities, which supply more than half of India’s electricity, have fuel inventory to last just under three days.
“This panic was unnecessarily created without any reason,” power minister RK Singh told ANI news agency.
On Saturday, Kejriwal said Delhi could face power outages if the central government did not quickly resolve the coal shortage at power plants. He sought the intervention of the Prime Minister to resolve the crisis.
Power minister Singh has directed that distribution companies in Delhi will get as much power as they require, his ministry said on Sunday.
“The ministry of coal reassures that ample coal is available in the country to meet the demand of power plants,” the coal ministry said in a statement. “The coal stock at power plants end is about 72 lakh tonne, sufficient for 4 days’ requirement, and that the Coal India Limited end is more than 400 lakh tonnes, which is being supplied to the power plants.”
The Centre was not ready to accept there was a coal crisis, Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said. Its policy to “turn a blind eye” to every problem could prove to be bad for the country, he said.
“Union power minister RK Singh said there isn’t any coal crisis and that chief minister Arvind Kejriwal should not have written a letter to the prime minister on the issue. It is sad that a Union cabinet minister has adopted such irresponsible approach,” Sisodia said at a news briefing.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader said that it clearly showed that the central government was making excuses to “run away” from the crisis and compared the present situation with the shortage of oxygen during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in April-May this year.
Singh reviewed the coal stock position at all thermal power plants, including those utilities that supply electricity to distribution companies in Delhi.
In a year when India produced record amounts of coal, excessive rain in the coal-producing areas hit movement of the fuel from mines to utilities, impacting generation in many states, including Punjab, Rajasthan, Delhi and Andhra Pradesh. Another factor that contributed to the present situation was power plants that used imported coal to generate electricity either curtailed generation or stopped production as a spurt in international coal prices made it difficult for them to meet commitments to states at a particular rate.
Despite heavy rainfall in September, steep hike in power demand due to the economic recovery and increase in the prices of imported coal, domestic coal supply has sustained operations of power plants and efforts are being made to ensure full power supply to the distribution companies, the power ministry said.
“It may be noted that the comfortable coal position in the country is reflected by the fact that the CIL has been supplying more than 2.5 lakh tonnes (approx) daily to meet the demand of non-power industries like Aluminium, Cement, Steel etc. along with supply of coal to thermal plants of the country,” the coal ministry said.
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.