The acute heatwaves being reported from across India in the months of March and April this year have reignited debates over the rising problems of climate change.
Meanwhile, even as citizens bear the brunt of electricity bills due to heightened consumption in summers and soaring prices, scores across the country are facing prolonged power cuts across several states.
The power cuts and blackouts, however, are not just a consequence of increased consumption, but also due to the coal crisis that the country is staring at.
The Increase in Demand
According to data, demand for power hit a 38-year high for the first two weeks of April, with the shortfall shooting up to 1.4 percent
Several states across India are finding it difficult to bridge the gap between demand for power and the supply, leading to outages and cuts in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Rajasthan among others.
Tamil Nadu power minister V Senthil Balaji on Wednesday blamed a sudden drop in power supply from the central grid for blackouts in several parts.
According to DailyO, the power demand in UP is currently above 21,000 MW, while the supply was 19,000 MW to 20,000 MW.
The Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) last week started imposing power cuts up to five hours in villages and up to two hours in urban areas. A senior PSPCL officer told The Tribune that the demand in Punjab is currently between 8,000 MW and 9,500 MW and is expected to rise up to 15,000 MW during the paddy season.
The Coal Crisis
On 21 April, All India Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF) Chairperson Shailendra Dubey said that only nine days of coal stock is left in 12 states.
“Thermal plants across the country are grappling with coal shortage as the power demand in states has increased, and many of them are not able to bridge the gap between demand and supply because of insufficient coal stocks at thermal plants," Dubey said in a statement, as quoted by Mint.
As per norms, plants near coal pitheads should have a stock of 17 days and the ones away from the pitheads should have a stock to last up to 26 days.
According to the AIPEF, as of 21 April, UP had coal stock left for seven days, Haryana for eight days, and Rajasthan for 17 days.
Several experts are citing the rise in global coal prices and the disruption of international supply amid the Russia-Ukraine war as some of the reasons behind the crisis.
Dubey also cited the shortage of railway rakes for transport of coal as one of the reasons behind the impact on the inventory.
While Union Home Minister Amit Shah held a meeting with Power Minister RK Singh, coal minister Pralhad Joshi and railway minister Ashwini Vaishnav on 19 April, several states, including UP, MP, Punjab, Haryana, and Karnataka plan to import up to 10 million tonnes of coal.
According to Reuters, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu plan to import 10.5 million tonnes of coal in the coming months.