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India's power situation grim, efforts on to ease crunch

Friday October 14, 2011 08:18:15 PM, Nazia Jafri, IANS

New Delhi: Shortage of power in states such as Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka Friday threatened to cascade into a pan-India crisis with coal supplies hit due to varied reasons, including rains and civil strife.

Many states have been facing three-four hours of power cuts a day and the situation remained critical despite some steps by the government to spruce up feedstock supplies and divert coal from plants which have some stock to others where the levels are precariously low.

The coal ministry has decided to offer some of the e-auction coal to the sector during the current month. As per the existing policy on supply of coal, 10 percent of the total available quantity of this feedstock is kept for e-auction.

In a statement Friday, the coal ministry said it had increased the supply of coal rakes to 169 as on Sep 13, of which 148 were earmarked for the power sector.

"The total dispatches are likely to further increase to around 180 rakes in the next few days, out of which an average of 145 rakes will be supplied to power sector," said the ministry in a statement.

The main reasons behind the shortage of feedstock are heavy rains in some coal producing areas, a two-day strike by workers of state-run Coal India last week and the disruption of mining in Andhra Pradesh due to an over-month long strike to press for a separate state of Telengana.

As a result, many of the units of the country's largest power producing utility, the state-run NTPC, have been left with coal supplies for no more than two days. Some units were also operating at sub-optimal levels, power ministry officials said.

Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said coal supplies to the plants across the country were picking up and the electricity situation in the country would be back to normal in 4-5 days.

He also said power plants with sufficient coal stocks have been asked to divert some of their stocks to units with low fuel stocks.

"We have instructed all our companies to transfer coal from one to the other, wherever there is a possibility of still having two-to-three days of stock. Diwali would be celebrated in good light," Shinde told reporters here.

In the national capital, one of the two distribution companies said the situation was set to improve by weekend. "But during the interim, to the extent of the shortfall, the Delhi discoms will be constrained to undertake load shedding on a rotational basis."

In West Bengal, though, the situation was caused by Coal India's subsidiaries halting supplies to state-run utilities due to default in payment, prompting the state's power minister to assure people that the situation will improve in three days.

Gujarat, on the other hand, while not facing a power crisis decided to stop distribution to other states as a precautionary measure, claiming a 30 percent drop in coal supplies to the state from the central government-run coal mining entities.

In Andhra Pradesh, the power crisis could ease a bit after the petroleum ministry allocated 0.63 million standard cubic metres a day (mmscd) additional natural gas to the independent power producers. With this, Andhra Pra­desh would be able to generate 130 MW of power.








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