India's coal stocks are at critical levels and states are sounding the alarm over possible blackouts.
Against this backdrop, Home Minister Amit Shah held a meeting with Power Minister RK Singh, Coal Minister Pralhad Joshi along with other senior officials to discuss the current supply situation and coal shortage. Chief Ministers of Delhi and Andhra Pradesh have even written to the Prime Minister seeking his intervention.
Delhi Power Minister Satyendar Jain has said that if the coal supply doesn't improve, the national capital will face blackouts in two days.
Andhra Pradesh relies on other states for its entire coal supply and the state's energy secretary appealed to consumers to reduce the use of air-conditioners during the peak hours of 6pm to 10 pm.
Maharashtra also urged the consumers to use electricity sparingly from 6 am to 10 am and from 6 pm to 10 pm to balance the demand and availability of supply. 13 thermal power plants supplying power to state electricity Distribution Company have been forced to shut down.
Punjab is staring at a power outage with three power plants forced to shut down due to the acute shortage of coal. The state is also mulling rotational load shedding in several regions.
Srikant Nagulapalli, Energy Secretary of Andhra Pradesh and A Venu Prasad, Chairman and Managing Director at the Punjab State Power Corporation discussed this further.
Nagulapalli is also the Chairman and Managing Director for the Andhra Pradesh Division at Transco.
“We are comfortably placed but it takes about two-three days for coal wrecks to reach Punjab. Because of that we will have to wait for another one-two days,” said Prasad.
“We are also conserving our coal because after building up of two-three days coal stocks, we can increase our generation capacity. So tomorrow onwards we are expecting to get some hydel power also at the same time we are buying huge power from market roughly at the rate of around Rs 12-13 per unit for the last one week. So the situation is a little bit improving but it takes another two-three days,” he said.
According to Prasad, from October 13 onwards, the power shortage issue should gradually reduce.
“By the weekend, the situation will be improved considerably and there should not be any load shedding from next Saturday or Sunday onwards,” he said.
“Andhra Pradesh’s power consumption has increased by 20 percent compared to the pre-COVID times. Coupled with the large amount of wind and solar that we have, we have not contracted with any coal plants for the last few years in order to absorb the green energy. So Andhra Pradesh for its energy needs depends heavily on the market – almost 25 percent of our purchases are from the market,” said Nagulapalli.
“The exchange prices also have been almost two-three times their level about 30 days ago, so that has been hitting us badly because we are unable to mobilize the liquidity in order to pay for the exchange power,” he said.
In terms of scheduled load shedding, he said, “Currently we are making all efforts to ensure that there is no load shedding. We have been mobilizing whatever resources we can to buy power from the market but increasingly it is becoming very difficult for us.”
For the entire discussion, watch the accompanying video.