The country’s thermal power plants are grappling with extremely low coal supplies as demand for electricity has recovered faster than expected. Fifteen thermal power plants, with a production capacity of 15,385 MW, had no coal stock days in stock as of September 30, according to data released by the Department of Energy.
No less than 104 thermal power plants, with a capacity of 126.8 GW out of the 135 thermal power plants in the country, are currently classified as having “critical” or “super critical” levels of coal stock for a week. A total of 72 plants with a capacity of 89.5 GW have coal stocks of three days or less, contrary to government guidelines for 14-day stocks.
Senior officials in the ministries of coal, electricity and railways are currently working to ensure that thermal power plants continue to be able to meet the demand for electricity. The government has also redirected the coal supply to thermal power plants facing extremely low coal stock levels.
According to a report by Crisil, thermal power plants have supplied a disproportionate amount of the surge in demand. “The massive increase in demand for electricity in April-August was not evenly distributed among the different sources of electricity. Coal-based power generation increased (by about) 23% year-on-year, while that based on other conventional sources saw an (approximately) 8.4% year-on-year decline, “says the report, adding that electricity production from renewable sources also increased by 16.7. percent during the period from April to August.
India’s electricity demand reached 124 billion units in August, up 17% from the corresponding month’s demand of 106 billion units in 2019 which was unaffected by Covid. International coal prices have also increased at the same time due to a surge in Chinese demand and supply issues. Only a few thermal power plants in India depend on imported coal for power generation, with a large majority relying on domestic coal for power generation.
The price of Australian non-coking coal used in thermal power plants crossed $ 200 (around Rs 14,800) per tonne at the end of September. The achievement of the regulated average price of coal for Coal India, which accounts for about 80 percent of domestic coal production, is Rs 1,394 per tonne.