The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Power cloud on Pujas
- Slash in coal supply, brake on generation

With the state government doubtful about uninterrupted power supply during the Pujas, pandal illuminations may take a backseat this year.

On Monday, power minister Mrinal Banerjee hinted at a major shortfall in electricity at different thermal plants in the coming days. “There could be darkness during the Pujas this year,” Banerjee said. “Eastern Coalfields Limited (ECL), the main supplier of coal to power plants, has drastically reduced its supply. So, we are left with no alternative but to slash generation. This will result in power cuts at different times. Moreover, we have information that there will be no improvement in the supply of coal, which means that power cuts are imminent during the Pujas,’’ said Banerjee.

According to statistics provided by the minister, all power utilities, including Power Development Corporation Limited (PDCL), Durgapur Projects Limited (DPL) and CESC, have been getting 40 to 50 per cent less coal in the past five months and supply is gradually dwindling. The four thermal power plants, owned by PDCL and CESC, get their supplies from mines in Ranigunj and Asansol. “The power utilities are solely dependent on it because of good quality coal,” said Banerjee. Sources said in the past five months, CESC got 156,758 tonnes, instead of the actual requirement of 215,000 tonnes. Similarly, Kolaghat needs 177,000 tonnes but got 95,401 tonnes, while DPL got only 50 per cent of its requirement of 70,000 tonnes.

Banerjee held a meeting with all power utilities on September 19 to review the situation, at which officials expressed concern over the fall in coal supply. “Uninterrupted power supply during the Pujas has never been a problem. But this year, we are sceptical. Although we hope that additional power can be drawn from some other source, we think it prudent to keep everybody informed of an adverse possibility,’’ the minister said.

The ECL authorities will not give any assurance on when normalcy will be restored. “The authorities told me that the fall in coal supply is due to less ‘lifting’ from underground mines. But I cannot agree with this. Over the past few weeks, I had requested the authorities to see whether things can turn for the better, but there has been no response. Fearing a massive power cut throughout the state, I spoke to the coal ministry in Delhi but did not get any assurance from there either,’’ Banerjee said.

The only option was to import coal to continue generation as per the demand. “We will wait for a few days and then think about importing thermal coal. But, it will take time, as the process is lengthy,’’ Banerjee said. “Following reduction of supply from ECL, we brought coal from Mahanadi Coalfields but as the ash content is very high, it cannot be used for long. The unit may break down because of this,’’ the minister said.

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