Amid rising power demand in the country due to a continued heatwave, India is staring at an electricity crisis heightened by a coal shortage at over 150 power plants.
The coal stock position at 173 power plants under the supervision of the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) stood at 21.93 million tonnes (MT), which, according to a Nomura report, is less than the regulatory requirement of 66.32 MT as on April 21.
Media reports have suggested that coal inventories had dipped to the lowest since 2014 at the beginning of the financial year to nine days as against the Centre's mandated 24 days' worth of stocks.
While on one hand, the CEA daily coal report said that coal stock at 81 out of the 150 government owned power plants is critical, on the other is the increased power demand -- from 106.6 billion units (BU) in 2019, it increased to 124.2 BU in 2021 to 132 BU in 2022.
"There is a coal shortage and the situation still could have been salvaged, but the early heat has exponentially increased the power demand, widening the demand-supply gap," said an official from the power sector.
States such as Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Haryana and Andhra Pradesh are witnessing power cuts amid low coal stocks.
On Friday, the Maharashtra government declared that it is planning to import coal and acquire a coal mine from Chhattisgarh for power generation.
"Coal is not being supplied in the country as per demand, forcing us to consider alternatives to bridge the gap of around 3,500 MW-4,000 MW shortfall between the demand and supply," Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar had told mediapersons in Mumbai.
Last week, the state Cabinet authorised the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Co Ltd to purchase power from elsewhere to tide over the current crisis.
Pawar reiterated that insufficient coal is being supplied to various states by the Centre, and even Maharashtra is not getting the required quantities, though all efforts are being made to ensure smooth power supply and end the ongoing power cuts.
The coal shortage has further been accentuated due to shortage of railway rakes for coal supply to the power plants.