Power Minister RK Singh on Sunday warned GAIL and Tata Power against “acts of irresponsible behaviour” that created “unnecessary panic” among customers about power outages due to a shortage of coal, saying the country has reserves for another 4-5 days.
The minister, who met officials of Power Ministry, BSES, and Tata Power, said: “Yesterday [Saturday] evening I got a call from Delhi L-G. He told me that Delhi CM has written a letter to him regarding power crisis. In Delhi, power supply is as per demand and will be done in future also.”
Calling the panic “baseless”, Singh said the issue started because GAIL sent a message to Delhi discoms that they are going to stop the supply due to end of contract. “I have instructed that supply should not stop in any case. There is no crisis anywhere; it’s an unnecessary crisis.”
The minister also slammed GAIL and Tata Power’s “irresponsible behaviour” and assured that the country still has reserve of 4-5 days. “Our coal stock is being built up, there is nothing to worry. People should know that we are continuously monitoring the situation… This situation is because there is rise in demand; demand is high, it means there is economic growth.”
Following Singh’s statement, the Ministry of Coal also clarified that availability was sufficient to meet power plant demands. “Fear of disruption in power supply is unfounded. Coal-based power generation has grown by 24% this year. Despite heavy rains, Coal India Ltd supplied more than 225 MT coal to power sector,” the ministry said.
Union Coal Minister Pralhad Joshi too slammed the “fear mongering”. “Thermal power plants have rolling stock being replenished with daily supply. With withdrawal of monsoon, coal dispatches are set to rise in coming days, increasing coal stocks. Reiterating, there’s sufficient coal stock, don’t fall for fear-mongering,” he said.
The shortages in India – the world’s largest coal consumer after China – follow widespread outages in neighbouring China, which has shut factories and schools to manage the crisis.
Over half of India’s 135 coal-fired power plants, which in total supply around 70% of India’s electricity, have fuel stocks of less than three days, data from the Centrall grid operator showed.
Energy supplies are under strain globally as prices surge and demand and supply chains are strained by the recovery of consumption following lockdowns to contain the pandemic. India’s power shortfall in the first seven days of October was over 21 times the deficit in the same period last year, and more than four times of that in 2019.
As economies open up in the rest of the world, the demand for importing power-generation fuels, such as coal, has risen. Similarly in India, the power consumption in August jumped by nearly 20 percent from the same month in 2019, before the pandemic struck, the power ministry said.
India is facing two challenges- soaring electricity demand as manufacturing and business rebounds after Covid-19 curbs were lifted and a fall in local coal output.