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Looming Power Crisis in India

Context

Temperatures have shot up across many parts of the country with the early onset of summer, leading to a rise in the demand for power. Instances of power outages have been reported in several states.

Relevance

GS-III: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

Dimensions of the Article

  • Why is there a concern around power supply?
  • How bad is coal shortage?
  • Is coal shortage the only reason of power crisis?
  • What has led to coal shortage?
  • How has center responded?

Why is there a concern around power supply?

  • The demand for power has soared.
  • Several states, including Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Telangana, and Maharashtra, are facing power outages.
  • The coal stock with power generation companies (gencos) is not adequate to meet the rising demand.

How bad is the coal shortage?

  • Normally, a power plant must maintain 26 days of coal stock.
  • However, at present, several power plants are reporting critical levels of coal stock.
  • Data from the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) shows that 97 power plants out of the 173 that the CEA tracks have critical levels of coal inventory.
  • Of the 173, there are 155 non-pithead plants or power plants that are not near coal mines.
  • These have an average of 28% of the stock compared to the normal scenario.
  • The 18 plants that are near coal mines have an average stock of 81% of the normal requirement.

Is coal shortage the only reason for a power crisis?

  • The lack of railway rakes to transport coal is also a major problem.
  • The state power distribution companies (discoms) have also not been able to clear their dues to power generation companies.
  • The covid-19 pandemic has now weakened the finances of many states, raising doubts about the ability of state-owned discoms to clear their dues.

What has led to the coal shortage?

  • Several factors have led to the shortage, including the stagnation of production by Coal India Ltd (CIL) after the bumper production in FY15 and FY16.
  • There seems to be a tussle between the Centre and coal-rich states, which delay environment and land acquisition clearances.
  • High dues of discoms towards gencos and the eventual delay in gencos paying CIL has complicated the scenario.

How has the Centre responded?

  • CIL has made efforts to raise supply to the power sector by reducing its dispatch to other industries.
  • The power ministry said that to avoid long-distance transport, a ‘tolling’ facility would be allowed.
  • In this system, state gencos can allow other thermal power plants near a coal mine to utilize their coal linkages to generate and transmit power back.
  • This is an easier alternative compared to transportation.
  • Further, the states need to ensure that imported coal-based plants operate at reasonable tariffs.

Source – Live Mint

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September 2022
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