From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Pithead and Non-pithead plants
Mains level : Coal shortage and Power Crisis
Temperatures have shot up across many parts of the country with the early onset of summer, leading to a rise in the demand for power. Instances of power outages have been reported in several states.
Why is there a concern around power supply?
- The demand for power has soared.
- Several states, including Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Telangana, and Maharashtra, are facing power outages.
- The coal stock with power generation companies (gencos) is not adequate to meet the rising demand.
How bad is the coal shortage?
- Normally, a power plant must maintain 26 days of coal stock.
- However, at present, several power plants are reporting critical levels of coal stock.
- Data from the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) shows that 97 power plants out of the 173 that the CEA tracks have critical levels of coal inventory.
- Of the 173, there are 155 non-pithead plants or power plants that are not near coal mines.
- These have an average of 28% of the stock compared to the normal scenario.
- The 18 plants that are near coal mines have an average stock of 81% of the normal requirement.
Note: Non-pithead plants are power plants where the coal mine is more than 1,500 kilometres away.
Is coal shortage the only reason for a power crisis?
- The lack of railway rakes to transport coal is also a major problem.
- The state power distribution companies (discoms) have also not been able to clear their dues to power generation companies.
- The covid-19 pandemic has now weakened the finances of many states, raising doubts about the ability of state-owned discoms to clear their dues.
What has led to the coal shortage?
- Several factors have led to the shortage, including the stagnation of production by Coal India Ltd (CIL) after the bumper production in FY15 and FY16.
- There seems to be a tussle between the Centre and coal-rich states, which delay environment and land acquisition clearances.
- High dues of discoms towards gencos and the eventual delay in gencos paying CIL has complicated the scenario.
How has the Centre responded?
- CIL has made efforts to raise supply to the power sector by reducing its dispatch to other industries.
- The power ministry said that to avoid long-distance transport, a ‘tolling’ facility would be allowed.
- In this system, state gencos can allow other thermal power plants near a coal mine to utilize their coal linkages to generate and transmit power back.
- This is an easier alternative compared to transportation.
- Further, the states need to ensure that imported coal-based plants operate at reasonable tariffs.
Try answering this PYQ:
Consider the following statements:
- Coal sector was nationalized by the Government of India under Indira Gandhi.
- Now, coal blocks are allocated on lottery basis.
- Till recently, India imported coal to meet the shortages of domestic supply, but now India is self- sufficient in coal production.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3
Post your answers here.