Coal shortage leads to power outages across India (Roundup)

October 12th, 2011 - 10:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Pranab Mukherjee New Delhi, Oct 12 (IANS) A severe shortage of coal has hit electricity output in the country and led to long and frequent power outages in many states, including the national capital, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

Most of the plants of the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), the country’s largest power producer, have been generating significantly less power than their installed capacity for the last couple of weeks due to the shortage of coal supply, an official said Wednesday.

Heavy rains in coal producing areas and a two-day strike by workers of Coal India compounded the problems of many power plants across the country, he said.

Talking to reporters here, Power Secretary P. Uma Shankar said said the government would sell coal to power companies through e-auctions to address their concerns.

“The coal secretary has told us that the coal ministry will be able to spare some of the coal that would be sold through e-auctions, provided the developer picks up the coal from the pithead,” Shankar said.

Coal India, the largest coal miner in the country, sells about 10 percent of its total output through the e-auction route. It is, however, not clear how much coal will be diverted to power producers.

The national capital Delhi has been facing frequent power cuts for over a week.

“It is causing a lot of troubles. There has been frequent power cut. At least for 4-5 hours, we have to live without power,” said D.V. Soni, a resident of east Delhi.

People across the country have been hit by the frequent power outages.

An official team from Karnataka, headed by Energy Minister Shobha Karandlaje, arrived in New Delhi Wednesday to plead with the central government for more power as severe shortfalls have forced long hours of outages and staggered holidays for industries in the state.

All small, medium and large-scale industries in Karnataka, which generally observe Sunday as the weekly holiday, will go for staggered weekly holidays from Thursday in the face of the state reeling under 1,000 MW power shortage daily.

“The details will be worked between industry associations and Escoms (electricity supply companies) and the schedule will come into effect from Thursday,” Karandlaje said in Bangalore before heading for New Delhi.

Other states like Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh have been facing a similar problem and have requested the central government to take appropriate action to increase coal supply.

A group of ministers, headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has made concrete suggestions to fast track clearances for allocation of coal blocks to the private sector and simultaneous forest and environment clearances to expedite the availability of coal to the power sector.

The centre Wednesday agreed to give 700 MW extra power to Maharashtra, an official said here late in the evening.

Maharashtra has been facing heavy load-shedding ranging from 3-7 hours in urban centres and 11-13 hours in urban areas.

The group has also accepted the power ministry’s suggestions to allow utilities to undertake tariff revision periodically, rather than as a one-off exercise, Power Secretary Uma Shankar said at an event organised by FICCI here.

FICCI president Harsh Mariwala said according to the industry lobby estimate, up to 25,000 MW of thermal power capacity was at present stranded in the country. “This implies a locking up of Rs.100,000 crore in stalled power projects,” he said.

Mariwala said the immediate concern was availability of adequate fuel, especially supply of coal to power plants.

“In spite of the vast coal reserves in India, domestic coal availability remains uncertain. This coupled with volatile international prices of coal is set to derail capacity addition plans of projects developers,” he said.

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