Written by Vedika Pathania, a second-year student.
Early in October, the country was shaken by the possibility of a severe power outage. An energy emergency is looming over India as coal supplies dwindle, increasing the difficulty of recovering from the pandemic. The majority of India’s coal-fired power facilities were down to just a few days’ worth of supplies.
In a meeting with senior officials from the coal and power ministries, the Prime Minister’s Office assessed the coal stock situation in India’s thermal power plants. India’s thermal power plants have average coal storage of four days, compared to a recommended level of 15-30 days, with a number of states expressing fears about blackouts due to coal scarcity.
As a result of low coal inventories at thermal power plants, a number of states, including Delhi, Punjab, and Rajasthan, have expressed worry about possible blackouts. Thermal power plants running at reduced capacity in Rajasthan, Punjab, and Bihar have already caused load shedding.
As the economy recovered from the impacts of the epidemic, there was a dramatic increase in electricity consumption, resulting in a coal scarcity. In a nutshell, increasing demand for coal as a result of the economy’s opening up (and the festive season, which is still going on in many regions of the country) has strained resources and burned through supplies quicker than projected.
In August, total electricity consumption was 124 billion units, up from 106 billion units in August of last year. The coal scarcity has also been exacerbated by a rapid spike in international coal prices due to a shortage in China, as well as low stock accumulation by thermal power plants during the April-June period. The delivery of coal to thermal plants was also slowed in September due to heavy rains in coal-producing areas.
As the monsoon rains have subsided, coal deliveries have increased and are expected to continue, according to the power ministry. According to the ministry, an official team is monitoring the issue and working with Coal India Ltd. and the railways to increase supplies.
The situation is, however, better than it was in October.
According to a Reuters analysis of government statistics, India’s electricity demand climbed 2.2 percent in November, less than the 4.1 percent increase in October, helping the energy-hungry country overcome a severe coal shortfall that resulted in widespread power outages. Power plants’ average coal inventory would last nine days, up from six days on Oct. 31, but still short of the norm of 12 days three months ago.
However, given that demand is expected to rise, the problem has emphasised India’s need to create additional renewable energy supplies. The coal scarcity might continue to simmer until these issues are addressed, eventually escalating into a full-fledged energy crisis. That would be the absolute last thing India needs as it struggles to recover from the pandemic.