A day after both the Union ministries of coal and power denied any energy shortage in the country, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday held a meeting with Coal Minister Pralhad Joshi and Power Minister R K Singh and officials of the ministries concerned.
TV footage indicated executives of India’s largest, state-owned power generator NTPC were there in the meeting.
Though there was no official statement from the government till late evening, people in the know said the meeting took stock of the coal situation as several states raised an alarm over the shortfall and an impending electricity supply crisis.
Close to 16 Gw of coal-based power generation capacity is under outage (not generating) for lack of supply, according to the data on the National Power Portal.
The coal ministry in a public statement on Sunday said ample coal was available in the country to meet the demand of power plants.
State miner Coal India Ltd (CIL) on Monday said it had scaled up supplies to power utilities of the country to 1.51 million tonnes (MTs) a day during the past four days of October.
The off-take has gone up to 1.73 MTs per day during October (first 10 days), posting 10 per cent growth over the same period last year, CIL said.
“The aim is to ramp up supplies to the power sector even higher, which we hope to achieve after puja. Once the despatch rate is maintained, the stock build-up will help tide over the tight situation,” said S N Tiwary, director (marketing), CIL.
CIL in a statement said the coal supply to gencos was at an all-time high till now this fiscal year “but it is the never experienced before hunger for the dry fuel, spurred by an unmatched increase in power generation that upset the demand-supply scales”.
“Once October and major festivals are over, conditions will improve and the power demand is expected to be down by a notch, easing the pressure,” the company said, adding it had to tackle the supply shortfall created by 14 imported coal-based power plants, which scaled down their generation due to skyrocketing coal prices in the international markets.
Since August, coal stocks at thermal units have dwindled. Currently, 16.8 Gw of power generation capacity has no stock and 29 Gw has fewer than three days of coal. The coal ministry, however, said the coal available at the power plants “is a rolling stock which gets replenished by the supplies from the coal companies on a daily basis”.
The power ministry, in a statement on Sunday, said despite heavy rain in August-September, a “steep hike in power demand due to economic recovery and increase in prices of imported coal, domestic coal supply have sustained the operation of power plants and all out efforts are being made to ensure full power supply to the discoms as per their requirements”.
Several states, including Delhi, have expressed panic over shortages of coal. In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal last week asked the Centre to divert more coal and gas to power units supplying to the city.
Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala made similar demands. Some state-owned discoms have alerted their consumers of power cuts and have urged them to use electricity judiciously.