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Acute shortage of power as thermal plants in Punjab, other states face irregular coal supply

PSPCL officials say though coal is arriving, it is way less than what is required to keep the plants running at full capacity

Acute shortage of power as thermal plants in Punjab, other states face irregular coal supply

Photo for representation.



Tribune News Service

Aman Sood

Patiala, April 28

Punjab, along with a majority of the coal-based thermal plants in the country, is facing irregular coal supply and is unable to replenish its already-low stock.

Senior PSPCL officials say though coal is arriving, it is way less than what is required to keep the plants running at full capacity.

However, experts in the power sector say that since the beginning of the paddy season in 2021, the coal stock was lower than that of previous years. “Blaming monsoon is wrong as it is an annual phenomenon and coal is always short during the pre- and post-monsoon periods. The PSPCL failed to ensure that they stock over 35-40 days’ coal in all its state and private thermal plants, leading to sudden shortage,” they said.

“Even Coal India Limited says that if thermal power generation plants had maintained a minimum of 22-day fuel stock prescribed by the Central Electricity Authority (CEA), the low coal situation at thermal power projects could have been averted. If Punjab had stocked more coal, it would have been able to sell power during this period at higher rates,” says a former chief engineer with PSPCL.

“Now their problem is that nothing was done to build coal stock or ensure that all private and government plants have coal stocks. Hence, power cuts in the state. The situation is not likely to improve as the power demand is increasing and we are short of 200 lakh units daily with the demand increasing,” he said.

On April 10, Punjab power minister Harbhajan Singh had reiterated the government’s commitment to provide eight-hour regular supply to agriculture pump sets, and uninterrupted and quality power supply to all categories of consumers including industry in the state in the upcoming paddy season.

He had said that the peak demand in the coming paddy season is expected to be around 15,000MW to 15,500MW. “PSPCL is focusing on maximum banking with other states; starting from November 2021 power is being supplied for banking and is being continued right up to April so that the 2,300MW power can be received back during the upcoming paddy season,” he had said.

However, power sector insiders say power cuts have only increased and if the scenario does not improve even tier-one cities will face power cuts along with villages, given the high demand of power. In 2021, the power cuts varied from one to two hours in cities and this year it can increase further. “Not only coal, but a rain spell is the need of the hour. Power generation is low and power rates at power exchange are already high,” they say.

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