Coal crunch: 64 non-pithead power plants left with less than 4 days of dry fuel stocks


PTI, Oct 6, 2021, 9:49 AM IST

Credit: Reuters photo

Ahead of the festival season, the coal supply crisis seems to be deepening as 64 non-pithead power plants are left with less than four days of the dry fuel stocks.

The latest report on coal stocks for power plants from the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) also showed that 25 such power plants had coal stocks for less than seven days as on October 3. As many as 64 non-pithead thermal power plants had less than four days of stocks of the dry fuel.

The CEA monitors coal stocks at 135 power plants that have a cumulative generation capacity of 165 GW on a daily basis. Overall, total coal stocks of 78,09,200 tonnes were available at the 135 plants as on October 3 and that was sufficient for four days. The daily coal requirement of the 135 power plants with 165 GW of installed capacity is 18,24,100 tonnes. Among the 135 plants, not even a single one had eight or more days of coal stocks.

According to the report, there were seven non-pithead plants (where the coal mine is more than 1,500 kilometres away) that had less than five days of coal (supercritical) while one such plant had less than nine days of stocks of dry fuel (critical). Among the pithead power plants, three had less than three days of coal (supercritical) while seven had less than five days of stocks of dry fuel (critical).

The report also showed that 17 plants — with a cumulative installed power generation capacity of 21,325 MW — had zero coal stocks while 20 power plants of 22,550 MW capacity had one day of the dry fuel stocks. As many 20 power plants with a total generation capacity of 29,960 MW had two days of coal stocks while 19 power plants, with a total generation capacity of 22,000 MW, had three days of the dry fuel stocks, as per the report.

The report showed that there were 15 power plants, with a cumulative generation capacity of 16,890 MW, which had four days of coal stocks. Six power plants, having 7,174 MW generation capacity, had dry fuel stocks for five days. Nine power plants with 9,360 MW total generation capacity had coal stocks for six days while one power plant of 2,270 MW generation capacity had dry fuel stocks for seven days.

Power Minister R K Singh had reportedly termed the coal shortage as way beyond normal. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Power in a statement said the power demand has been increasing from August 2021 onwards. According to the statement, in August 2021, the power consumption was 124 Billion Units (BU) whereas the consumption in August 2019 (before the Covid period) was 106 BU.

This was an increase of almost 18-20 per cent. The increasing trend is persisting – demand on October 4, 2021, was 1,74,000 MW, which is 15,000 MW more than on the same day last year, it added. The increase in demand is a positive sign; it indicates that the economy is growing. It is also because more than 28 million homes were connected to electricity under the Saubhagya Programme and all these new consumers are buying appliances like fans, coolers, TVs etc, the ministry explained.

There was continuous rain in the coal-bearing areas in August and September 2021, leading to lower despatch from coal mines in this period, it further explained. However, it stated that the despatches have picked up again. On October 4, 2021, the total number of rakes dispatched was 263, which is 15 rakes more than the rakes dispatched on October 3, 2021, it informed. It is expected that the despatches from coal lines will increase further, the statement said.

The average stock of coal in power plants was for about four days on October 3, 2021. However, this is rolling stock, the coal is dispatched through rakes every day from the coal mines to thermal power plants, it added. To manage the coal stock and ensure equitable distribution of coal, the Ministry of Power constituted a Core Management Team (CMT) on August 27, 2021, comprising of representatives from the Ministry of Power, CEA (central electricity authority), POSOCO (Power System Operation Corporation), Railways and Coal India Ltd (CIL) to ensure daily monitoring of the coal stocks and despatches.

The CMT is closely monitoring and managing the coal stocks on daily basis and ensuring follow up actions with Coal India and Railways to improve the coal supply to power plants, it stated.

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