Coal shortage ‘beyond normal’, situation may not ease soon

Coal shortage ‘beyond normal’, situation may not ease soon

A sharp increase in energy demand as the economy opened up post pandemic restrictions is causing a “beyond normal” shortage of coal in the country which could last as long as six months.

Union Power Minister R K Singh told the Indian Express that bridging the gap between available coal and the coal needed to fire power stations would be a “touch and go” till then, though the demand is likely to come down after mid October with cooler weather.

“I can’t say I am secure… If you have 40,000-50,000 MW (of thermal capacity) with less than three days of stock, you can’t be secure,” Singh was quoted by the daily as saying.

He said he didn’t know whether he would “be comfortable in the next five-six months”, indicating there was no immediate end in sight to the crisis.

More than half the plants across the country are on alert for outages after the surge in electricity demand and a slump in local coal output eroded stockpiles. Coal plants having 40 gigawatts to 50 gigawatts of capacity have less than three days of stock.

Power stations had only four days of coal left on an average at the end of September, the lowest level in years. In the beginning of August, there were 13 days of coal left.

The government is working with state-run Coal India Ltd. and NTPC Ltd., India’s largest power generator, to raise output from mines and to ensure demand is met, Singh said.

Coal accounts for about 70% of India’s electricity generation, and consumption is forecast to rise in the next few years. India is suffering from the impacts of a sharp surge in electricity demand, a squeeze on domestic mine output and surging prices of seaborne coal.

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