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Amit Shah chairs meet on power crisis

High-level meeting chaired by the home minister at his residence discussed the coal situation in the country
Amit Shah
Amit Shah
File Photo

Our Special Correspondent   |   New Delhi   |   Published 03.05.22, 01:29 AM

Home minister Amit Shah on Monday held talks with the ministers of power, coal and railways to find ways to deal with the acute electricity supply crisis that has led to 8-hour power outages in several cities and towns in the south, north and west.

Power consumption in the country grew 13.6 per cent year-on-year to 132.98 billion units (BU) in April, showing the impact of the early onset of summers and spurt in economic activities, according to power ministry data. Power consumption in April last year was recorded at 117.08BU, which was higher than 84.55 BU in the same month of 2020.

The high-level meeting chaired by Shah at his residence discussed the coal situation in the country — the existing stocks, the present shortages and the transport challenges.

Power minister R.K. Singh, coal minister Pralhad Joshi and railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw attended the meeting. Sources said the home minister reviewed the coal stocks with power plants and coal import.

A PTI report said the railways has increased its average daily loading of coal rakes to over 400 per day, which is the highest in the past five years.

The deliberations also included a review of the electricity supply situation in the country, particularly in a dozen states that are witnessing higher demand amid low stocks of the key commodity.

The power ministry has already directed states and state gencos to start importing coal for blending at 10 per cent.

While some states have started the process, around 4-5 states are yet to float tenders.

Thee states have been asked to float tenders this month itself. The meeting covered this issue. Power minister Singh, meanwhile, will review electricity shortage with the states at a meeting to be held later this month, according to a television channel.

A discussion was held on the status of gas-based power plants, which are running on less than half plant load factor (PLF), the official added. The power crisis has affected people in more than 14 states. Data showed that power supply reached record levels three times last week. (See chart).

Sources said the power ministry has asked the Central Electricity Authority  to create a standard operating procedure for the blending of domestic and imported coal.

The government had increased the percentage of imported coal in the domestic mix to 10 per cent from 4 per cent in December 2021 to meet the shortage.

Coal India plans

Coal India on Monday said that it has stepped up production in April. Coal supply to the power sector at 49.7 million tonnes (mt) in April was up 15.6 per cent compared with 43mt in April 2021.

The public sector miner said on average it has supplied 1.66mt per day to power utilities in April, which increased to 1.73mt during the last week.

Despite rising coal production and supply, analysts anticipate the power deficit to continue till June.

“Power demand has been weak since 2019 owing to reduced economic activity during two years of Covid-19 lockdowns. However, with the economy reopening in full swing, heatwaves across various regions of India and no new coal plant additions, supply is falling short of demand,” said Vinod Chari, an analyst at Bobcaps (Bank of Baroda Capital Markets), in a note.

"This deficit will continue till June when the monsoon begins and hydro capacities enter the mix. With normal monsoons forecast this year, the hydro output is expected to be healthy,” the note said.

(With inputs from Calcutta Bureau)

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