Wet coal leads to frequent power cuts in Bengal

June 29th, 2008 - 1:42 pm ICT by IANS  

By Aparajita Gupta
Kolkata, June 29 (IANS) After incessant rains and floods, West Bengal is now reeling under severe power cuts, with wet and poor quality coal impacting the state’s thermal power stations. A top official of the state’s main power generating company, West Bengal Power Development Corporation Ltd (WBPDCL), said most of its units have been functioning much below their capacity.

“Work in almost all the units have been hampered due to the supply of wet and poor quality coal,” said P.K. Chakraborty, WBPDCL executive director (corporate).

With the supply falling way below demand, the state’s power utilities have been forced to resort to phased power cuts all over West Bengal to spread the shortage evenly.

State capital Kolkata has borne the brunt, with power going off two to three times for about an hour each. The sale of candles has gone up many times, even as some are increasingly turning to inverters to get some relief.

The daily demand from WBPDCL is 2,200-2,300 MW. “At present, we can supply only 1,900 MW. Power cuts are the only option left,” Chakraborty said.

Of the four thermal power stations run by WBPDCL, Kolaghat has been the worst affected.

Kolaghat, with its six units, has a total installed capacity of 1,260 MW. One of the units is now non-operational. With the coal problem standing in the way of smooth functioning of the other five units running at present, the thermal power station is able to produce only 720-730 MW. Thus there is a huge deficit every day.

Similarly, the Bakreswar power station with three units and an installed capacity of 630 MW is producing only 550-580 MW.

The other two relatively small power stations in Bandel and Santaldih are not experiencing much problems.

“I had built up a coal stock of 270,000 tonnes in Kolaghat to meet the summer demand. To tide over the present situation I have exhausted most of the stock. I am left with only 70,000 tonnes now,” Chakraborty said.

CESC Ltd, which has a monopoly over supplying power to the metropolis, does not have the capacity to meet the demands of the entire city from its own resources.

The company has a total generation capacity of 975 MW, while the peak hour demand in the city often shoots up to over 1,400 MW.

CESC turns to the West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd (WBSEDCL), a power distribution company, to close the gap as much as possible.

“We never get enough power from other sources even if we are ready to pay,” said a CESC spokesperson.

Citing an example, the spokesperson said the peak evening hour demand on June 24 in the city was 1,409 MW. “So we needed 434 MW to meet the shortfall. We bought power from WBSEDCL, but that was not sufficient. So we had to manage through rotational load shedding.”

Asked about a long-term solution to the problem, the spokesperson said: “We are looking forward to the completion of a third unit in Budge Budge, which will add up to the power generation capacity. It will start generation from September-October 2009.”

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