Business Standard

‘Switch off’: Coal supply crisis has discoms scrambling for solutions

Some plead Centre for more coal, others ask consumers to save electricit­y

- SHREYA JAI, SHINE JACOB & ISHITA AYAN DUTT New Delhi/chennai/kolkata, 10 October

Desperate times call for desperate measures and power distributi­on companies (discoms) have resorted to just that as they fear power supply shortage due to the ongoing coal crisis. While some discoms have pleaded to the Centre for more coal, others have asked consumers to “conserve” electricit­y.

Punjab: In a poster widely shared on Whatsapp, Punjab State Power Corporatio­n (PSPCL) has urged its consumers to conserve power by switching off lights and fans. The message said: “There is an acute shortage of coal in the country. Please conserve power by switching off lights, devices, and air conditione­rs when not required.”

Delhi: Similarly, Tata Power Delhi Distributi­on, one of the three discoms in the national capital of Delhi, sent an alarming message to the consumers in its area. “Due to the limited coal availabili­ty in generation plants across the North, the power supply scenario between 2 pm and 6 pm is at a critical level. Kindly use electricit­y judiciousl­y. Be a responsibl­e citizen. Inconvenie­nce caused is regretted — Tata Power-ddl,” read the SMS sent to the consumers.

This was followed by a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi from Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, asking the Centre to divert more coal to power units supplying to the national capital. In his letter, Kejriwal has asked the PM to reduce the cap on-spot prices so that some “power traders do not take advantage of the crisis”.

Kejriwal has asked the Centre to supply more coal to NTPC’S Dadri and Jhajjar units and more gas to Bawana and Pragati-i power stations. Senior executives, however, said the generation capacity of Bawana was increased to 1,000 Mw a day. It was earlier close to 450-500 Mw. By Saturday evening, the power ministry said the ministry of petroleum and natural gas responded that the required quantity of gas would be supplied to Bawana and Pragati stations. NTPC was directed to hike coal stocks equal to national average for Dadri and Jajjhar and to give full availabili­ty.

Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh: Demand in the two states was witnessing an uptick. These states saw their coal supply being regulated as they did not pay state-owned Coal India on time.

Andhra Pradesh: The state cited the coal crisis to ask for fuel for units that were undergoing insolvency proceeding­s but did not have coal. In a letter to Modi, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Jagan Reddy asked for reviving the non-pithead coal power units, which do not have any coal linkages or power purchase agreements. He said such plants should be allowed to operate “regardless of the proceeding­s at the NCLT”.

Kerala: Power purchase cost in the state is expected to increase by at least twofold, adding pressure on the state power sector already under financial stress. The state is dependent on other states for 75-80 per cent of its power requiremen­t and is already planning an awareness campaign to bring down power consumptio­n. The state consumed 22,000 trillion units of power in 202021, of which 78 per cent was procured from other states. The peak consumptio­n time has extended by one hour to 6 pm to 11 pm, instead of till 10 pm. For the past few weeks, the state is buying 300-500 Mw less from other states.

If the crisis persists, the Kerala State Electricit­y Board may be forced to purchase power at a higher rate ~18-20 per unit, as compared to around ~6 now.

As part of the awareness campaign, the state is urging its consumers to do the majority of their work during the daytime and reduce the usage of higher power-consuming electrical equipment during peak time. There were also demands to put additional charges on consumers for use of more than 500 units of power.

Tamil Nadu: The state power utility had on Friday resorted to power cuts in some areas citing maintenanc­e. Based on the data available with the government, the five thermal power plants of the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distributi­on Corporatio­n have an average stock of only 3.8 days, putting the state in the supercriti­cal category.

Out of the units, Mettur Thermal Power Station and Mettur TPS have a stock of one and nine days, respective­ly, while North Chennai has five days and Tuticorin has only four days. In the case of all the four power plants, the reason for the shortage was cited as the nonevacuat­ion of coal lying at Paradip port. On the other hand, the stock at the Vallur plant was seen as zero as the coal supply was partially stopped due to certain regulation­s. The plant has fuel supply agreements with CIL.

West Bengal: The state may remain unscathed by the looming power crisis in the country even as it faces higher demand during Durga Puja, the biggest festival of the state. “We are not facing any issues at the moment regarding shortages as such. But the NTPC Farakka unit has let us down badly. They are giving us around 200 Mw against the 700 Mw that they should be giving. That is because of the coal problem that they are facing,” a senior state government official said.

According to media reports, state Power Minister Aroop Biswas assured a few days back that there would be uninterrup­ted power supply during the puja. A state government official said, “Our captive mines have given us the advantage. We have a 3 to 4-day stock and have no interrupti­on in coal supply due to which we have our head above water.” The ratio of coal from state'’s own mines to CIL is 70:30.

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