India's Punjab Says Forced to Buy Power From Open Exchange as Thermal Plants Run Out of Coal
08:40 GMT 11.10.2021 (Updated: 10:39 GMT 19.07.2022)
Depletion of coal reserves in thermal power plants across the nation has recently been made known to the federal government by several state governments, including the capital Delhi. On Sunday, Minister for Power R.K.Singh, however, rubbished such concerns and said there are adequate stocks and they are being replenished regularly.
The Indian state of Punjab has kicked in a string of measures to prevent a "total blackout" after coal reserves in its power plants dipped dangerously low.
The northern state has resorted to buying power from open exchanges at twice the cost, aside from announcing power cuts in the state at the peak of the festive and agriculture season.
Compelled to cut down on power generation due to depleted coal reserves, the Punjab State Power Power Corporation Limited has announced three-hour power cuts in the state until 13 October.
Speaking to Sputnik on Monday morning, A. Venu Prasad, the chairman-cum-managing director of the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited said: "The coal reserves are in a precarious position and we are having to take tough decisions. We are now buying power from open exchanges at twice the cost to meet our requirements".
The state government is in the process of buying 1,100 MW of electricity from the open exchange after deciding to run its six thermal power plants on an alternate basis.
10 October 2021, 12:35 GMT
"The thermal power plants are being run on an alternate basis. We will run out of coal stocks if we run all the plants together and then we might face a total blackout. We are trying to avoid that", Prasad told Sputnik.
Officials in the state government said that the critical situation arose after the central government-owned coal mining and refining corporation Coal India Ltd. failed to supply coal as per requirements. "The inflow is much below the required level", Prasad told Sputnik.
The central electricity authority guidelines spell out that power plants located over 1,000 km from a coal mine should always have a minimum coal stock of up to 30 days. But this level is not being maintained by the power plants.
The state is witnessing a power demand of about 9,000 megawatts, which has spiked due to agricultural sector needs at this time of the year and unusually high temperatures.
Punjab State Chief Charanjit Singh Channi has slammed the federal government for its failure to meet coal requirements, leading to an unprecedented power crisis in his state.
"We are imposing power cuts on domestic consumers in cities and villages to ensure sufficient supply to the agricultural sector", said Channi.
The prevailing power crisis has seen rival political parties slamming the Congress-governed state leadership. Former deputy chief of the state, Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is also the leader of Shiromani Akali Dal, has put the onus on the state government's "lack of planning".
The PSPCL issued an appeal to consumers last Saturday to cut down on power usage.
"There is an acute shortage of coal in the country. Please conserve power by switching off the lights, devices, and air conditioners when not required", a public appeal by the state's power utility stated.