NEW DELHI: Coal-fired electricity generation has registered a sharp increase this month, preventing large-scale blackouts as the the power, coal and railway ministries made a concerted bid to improve fuel supply to power stations from domestic sources and imports.
Latest available government data till May 17 shows daily generation from domestic coal-fired plants rising more than 31% to 3,244 MU (million units) this month from 2,465 MU during the entire month of May in 2021.
Daily output from domestic coal-based plants that blended domestic fuel with imported coal has more than doubled from to 143 MU from during the period from 66 MU registered in May last year.
This vindicates the power ministry’s move to ask states and generation companies to import coal with a view to supplement availability of domestic fuel as growth in power demand outstrips rise in production by a wide margin, stretching railway infrastructure to the limit.
Similarly, the push for imports and the power ministry’s intervention to resolve commercial issues between states with purchase agreements with imported coal-fired plants has pushed up generation from such plants by 10% to 160 MU in the period under view from 145 MU in the same month of 2021.
Overall, generation based on imported coal has risen by 43% to 303 MU as compared to 211 MU in May 2021.
While the growth in generation has helped arrest the power shortfall from worsening, the real test of the measures put in place by the government lies ahead as fuel stocks at power plants remain low.
The power ministry sees peak demand of 210-220 GW (gigawatts), which is likely during the humid period between July and September when monsoon impacts coal mining and despatch.
The sudden surge in power demand due to early — and searing — summer coinciding with a strong rebound in economic activities created a mismatch between the pace at which coal is consumed at power plants and supplies reach.
Coal India, which supplies 80% of the fuel for generation, posted a record production of 622 million tonne in 2021-22, marking a 4.4% growth. But power demand grew at almost 15% in April and continue to hover at the same level.
“I am not worried for today, I am worried for the monsoon. There is no shortage of coal right now for generating power today. As I am getting my daily supply. If we don’t push up supplies then I will have a shortage of coal in the monsoon. We have reserve stocks of around 19.5 million tonnes. If I have 35-40 million tonnes, that will be great,” power minister R K Singh told TOI earlier this week.