India is currently experiencing its worst power outage in the last six years. In many regions of the country, the temperature has surpassed 45 degrees. The power cut situation has been exacerbated by the rising demand for electricity as a result of record-breaking heat and coal scarcity. Many parts of the country have been without power for several hours. This situation may worsen in the next few days because owing to increased heat, electricity demand is expected to rise by 8% in the coming days. In this situation, it is important to understand the cause behind such a massive power crisis.
Factors responsible for power cuts:
- India generates over 85 percent of its energy from coal-fired power plants, however, most of them are currently unable to supply less power due to rising electricity demand and coal scarcity. The coal reserves at the country’s coal-fired power plants are at their lowest levels in nine years. That is to say, the power demand is great, but due to a scarcity of coal, the plants are unable to meet the demand.
- Coal India is currently supplying 16.4 lakh tonnes of coal per day to power plants, despite demand of 22 lakh tonnes per day. Although coal consumption has increased by 8% this year, Coal India has not increased coal production. Notably, Coal India alone produces 80% of the country’s coal.
- The Central Electricity Authority (CEA) reports that 86 of the country’s 150 coal-fired power units have run out of coal. These plants are only able to meet 25% of their regular requirements due to a lack of supply. In thermal power plants around the country, there are currently 2.12 million tonnes of coal available, which is significantly fewer than the average level of 66.3 million tonnes.
- Last October, there was a power outage due to a coal shortage, but this time the outage is more severe due to the fact that it occurs during the summer.
- After two years, the country’s peak-hour electricity usage has climbed this year as a result of the corona pandemic.
- The inability to transport coal is another factor contributing to the power shortage. In fact, there were not enough coaches with the railways to transfer coal from coal firms to power plants.
- Another cause of the massive crunch is the phenomenon of coal imports. Over the last few years, India, the world’s second-largest coal importer, has constantly attempted to reduce its imports. Domestic coal producers, on the other hand, have not boosted production as quickly throughout this time. This resulted in a supply shortage. The government can no longer fill this gap, even if it wanted to, because the price of coal on the international market has hit a record high of $ 400 per tonne, i.e. 30 thousand rupees per tonne, due to the Russo-Ukraine war.
How summer has exacerbated this problem?
In general, there is a coal scarcity during the monsoon since coal mining is hampered by rain. This year, due to an increase in heatwaves, there has been a shortage of coal even in the summer, as mining is curtailed even in the heat.
In April of this year, the maximum temperatures at several places are breaking records for many years. The poor Western Disturbances contributed to more heatwaves. The temperature in Churu, Rajasthan, hit 50 degrees in April, even though it is generally cool there at this time of year.
The need for power has increased as a result of rising temperatures, as has the demand for coal to create more electricity. Water scarcity in coal power plants due to heat is another big issue. Even if there is adequate coal near the power plants, the amount of electricity produced will be reduced owing to a scarcity of water. Power plants had a similar situation earlier this year.