INDIA is facing an unprecedented early heatwave and equally so, an unprecedented power shortage, with coal supply unable to match the demand. Delhi’s Power Minister, Satyendar Jain said that while the capital city should have had 21-day of coal back-up, many power plants are left with coal for less than a day.
DISCOM sources revealed to India Ahead that on April 29, second day running, Delhi’s peak power demand crossed the 6000 MW mark. At 3:30 pm, Delhi’s peak power demand clocked 6197 MW.
Delhi’s peak power demand has increased by 7.1 percent in just 48 hours. It has increased by over 38 percent from April 1, 2022, when the city’s peak power demand had clocked 4469 MW.
By April 28, seen peak power demand higher than 100 percent of the corresponding days in April of 2021. For comparison, in the first 28 days of April, Delhi’s peak power demand had clocked 4372 MW in 2021 and 5552 MW in 2019.
But Delhi is not the only city facing a high demand. In fact, the demand is so critically high that many states have been unable to fulfil the demand and instead are witnessing hours of blackout.
Parts of Jammu and Kashmir are facing power outages for more than 16 hours. Rajasthan, which also happens to be a state issued with orange alert by the IMD, is witnessing power cuts of nearly 5 to 7 hours a day.
Its not just the rise in temperature which has shaken the power supply, it is also the low coal stocks, low imports, inability to supply the coal and Russian invasion of Ukraine. Coal is the most important and abundant fossil fuel in India, accounting for 55 per cent of the country’s energy need.
Anil Razdan, former Secretary, Ministry of Power said that the during the last two years in the pandemic when the country was under lockdowns, there was a period of virtual inactivity so loads were not as high.
“Under lockdown, there were a lot of things closed, industries were not fully functional. Now with things going back to normal, and along with that the unprecedented heat wave, means the load has gone up… At the same time import prices have gone up, people who are importing would import less, so there is complete pressure on domestic coal.”
In addition to the above factors, what is also not helping the country meet its demand for coal is the transportation. “The plants, if they aren’t able to generate the full capacity, they don’t have enough coal stocks. The coal stocks have to be transported through the railways. They haven’t been able to wherever its needed, because there aren’t enough wagons, or the capabilities (for transportation).”
In November 2021, reports stated that State-run Coal India Ltd (CIL) had plans to invest Rs 19,650 crore by financial year 2024 to increase coal transportation capacity by 330 million tonnes (mt) by constructing rail links and setting up joint ventures (JVs).
The government on April 29, has decided to cancel 42 trains indefinitely to allow for movement of coal carriages. According to the Central Electricity Authority’s (CEA) daily coal stock report, 56 of 165 thermal power stations are left with 10% or less coal. At least 26 have less than five per cent stock left.
Coal Production Claims
On April 26, India had 165 operational coal-powered plants with a generating capacity of 202.7 GW. The coal stock in these plants stands at 21.44 million tonnes, 32 per cent of the required inventory of 66.32 million tonnes. Of the 150 coal power plants that use domestic coal, 85 have a critical level of coal stock, which is less than 25 per cent of the required stock.
Coal shortage is also an issue in 12 of the 15 plants using imported coal.
At the same time, on April 26 the Union Minister of Coal, Pralhad Joshi tweeted, “We have achieved record coal production & offtake in 2021-22. Coal production & offtake in 2013-14 was 566 MT and 572 MT respectively. In FY22, coal production and offtake is 777 MT and 818 MT respectively. This is an increase of about 37% in coal production and 43% in offtake.”
A few days ago on April 23, Joshi had said that 72.50 million Ton (MT) of coal was available at different sources of Coal India Ltd (CIL), Singareni Colleries Company Ltd (SCCL), coal washeries etc. In a tweet, the Minister said that 22.01 Million Ton coal was available with Thermal Power Plants(TPP).
Stating that there is sufficient coal availability in the country, Joshi had gone on to say that the same would last for a month and availability is getting replenished on a daily basis with record production.
On April 22, in-line with various measures being taken in view of increasing power demand, Power Ministry amended the methodology for use of coal (allocated to states) by Private Power generating stations (IPPs).
Larger visibility has been given to the power plants by extending the period of supply of coal from 1 year to 3 years. It has also made amendments in the timeline of bidding process which has been reduced from 67 days to 37 days. The measures have been taken for ensuring more efficient utilisation of domestic coal.
They are reportedly taking these measures in order to optimally utilise the railway infrastructure for maximum transportation of coal to the power plants. The ministry said that this would enable States to optimally utilize their linkage coal in the plants nearer to the mines as it would be easier to transmit electricity instead of coal transport to far off States.
India’s electricity demand touched 201 giga watts on April 26 as heat wave continued over North-West India. The power ministry in its statement said that the demand surpassed last year’s maximum demand met of 200.539 GW which occurred on July 7, 2021 – so over two months before its earlier peak demand.
The Power ministry also said that “The rising power demand reflects the economic growth in the country”.
The temperatures rising this early in the year has been attributed to climate change by Dr Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, Director General of Meteorology, India Meteorological Department (IMD) to India Ahead.
The IMD has now warned that the current spell of heatwave may further intensify, and the areas affected over the next five days would likely be northwest and central India, while heatwave could be seen over east India in the next two days.
An orange alert has been issued for Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra for the next four days. The ‘orange alert’ means that the residents must be prepared.
The Union power ministry says that “In the month of March this year, the growth in energy demand has been around 8.9 percent. Further, the demand is expected to reach about 215-220 GW in months of May-June. The Government and other stakeholders are working together to ensure
unhindered power supply and efforts at all fronts are being made and measures are being taken for better utilisation of various resources.”
Power Crisis In States
As per the latest data, coal stocks at more than 100 thermal power plants in India have fallen below 25 percent of the required stock (critical mark).
The state has a power consumption of 1,800-2,100 MW during peak hours. Demand has now surged to 2,500-2,600 MW.
Jammu & Kashmir
Parts of J&K are facing power outages for more than 16 hours. Demand is 3,000 MW, and supply less than half of that. According to The Indian Express, NHPC-owned projects in J&K have an installed capacity of 2000 MW, they produce less than 1,400 MW out of which it receives only 150MW.
Daily power demand in April 2021 was about 2,131 lakh units. This has shot up to about 2,800 lakh units daily.
Haryana is facing shortage of at least 3,000 MW. The state is in negotiations with Adani Power Limited for restoration of supply from Mundra Power Plant. It cited the heat wave and infrastructure projects to explain the rise in demand.
Coal shortage and technical snags are the main reasons behind the shortage in the state. On Wednesday, demand reached 7,800 MW and availability was around 7,000 MW. This led to 2-5-hour power cuts in domestic areas.
Odisha has been facing a shortage of around 400 MW daily against its average need of 4,150 MW and maximum demand of 4,450 MW during peak hours. According to officials, the shortfall is temporary and the situation will improve within a week.
The state saw reduction in shortage over the past week compared to earlier in the month. The peak demand of the state had gone over 25000 MW, about 2500 MW higher than last year. Maharashtra is one of the states with large outstanding dues to coal companies and the Centre is blaming it for non-payment.
The state is facing a power deficit of 200-300 MW per day because of the sudden increase in demand, following the early arrival of peak summer and reduced generation of hydropower. The state’s consumption is close to 6,000 MW per day and availability from different sources is to the tune of 5,000-5,200 MW.
As per Fitch ratings, the daily electricity deficit in India has increased from 0.3 percent to 1 percent in April 2022. This has led to an 85 percent increase in the price of electricity traded on Indian exchanges from an average of Rs 3/kWh to Rs 8.23/kWh in March.
Coal imports are down, with the total imports for 2021-22 (provisional) being 173.33 million tonnes which in 2020-21(Prov.) was 215.25 million tonnes.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has seen the disruption in international coal supply, which has also made coal imports much more expensive, affecting India’s coal import.
But even before this, in March this year, the Ministry of coal in a press release said it had decreased Coal Import to 22.73 Million ton during April 2021-January 2022. Due to increased availability of coal on account of policy measures taken to increase domestic coal production, total coal import declined from 248.54 MT in 2019-20 to 215.25 MT in 2020-21 it said.
Further, during April 2021-January 2022, coal import further decreased to the level of 173.32 MT as compared to 180.56 MT during the corresponding period of previous year.
The domestic coal-based power generation up to January 2022 was 815.72 Billion Units (BU) with an increase of 12.55 per cent over 724.746 BU during the corresponding period of FY20. Imported coal based power generation which was 78.07 BU during April to January 2020 reduced by 55 per cent to 35.13 BU during corresponding months of current FY22.
Renewable Energy Lacking
While the several factors mentioned above have seen the supply being disrupted, what should also be looked into is the fact that India has not yet been able to increase its renewable energy source.
As of December 31, 2021, the renewable energy sources in India have a combined installed capacity of 150.4 GW. The following is the break-up of total installed capacity for Renewables: Wind power: 40.08 GW; Solar Power: 49.34 GW; BioPower: 10.61 GW; Small Hydro Power: 4.83 GW; Large Hydro: 46.51 GW.
The Centre has set targets to reduce India’s total projected carbon emission by 1 billion tonnes by 2030, reduce the carbon intensity of the nation’s economy by less than 45 percent by the end of the decade, achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2070 and expand India’s renewable energy installed capacity to 500 GW by 2030.
In the case of Nuclear energy, which should be the focus of the government, according to former power secretary Razdan, if it wants to truly focus on renewable energy and replace coal. India at the moment has seven Operational Nuclear Power Plants as of 2021 with a total capacity of 7,480 MW.